Archbishop blasts UEFA over anti-Catholic soccer chant

Glasgow Archbishop Mario Conti has criticised European football's governing body, UEFA, for its decision not to fine Rangers fans for anti-Catholic singing during the club's recent Champions League matches against Spanish club Villareal.

The Universe reports that despite a damning report from its own observer at the matches, the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) committee examining the case decided that no action would be taken against the Scottish club.

The offending behaviours of Rangers fans included the anti-Catholic chants of the Rangers with frequent derogatory references to the Pope and the song "The Billy Boys" which contains the lyrics "up to our knees in Fenian blood."

A UEFA report concluded that such songs were part of "Scotland's social and historical background."

It stated: "After studying the evidence at hand, as well as the statement of Rangers FC, the Control and Disciplinary Body concedes that the supporters have been singing the 'Billy Boys' for years during national and international matches without either the Scottish football or governmental authorities being able to intervene. The result is that this song is now somewhat tolerated."

"Given this social and historical context UEFA cannot demand an end to behaviour that has been tolerated for years."

Archbishop Conti condemned the judgement saying: "The terms of UEFA's judgement are unhelpful, appearing to give up on Scotland as a hopelessly sectarian society."

The Archbishop said that such a view may "inadvertently give encouragement to the bigots".

In a further twist Gerhard Kapl, the UEFA inspector responsible for drawing up the dossier on the Rangers support's conduct, has appealed against his own organisation's decision.

Mr Kapl had originally recommended that Rangers be fined $60,000 (25,000) and have one stand closed for the next European match it is involved in as punishment for what he described as "discriminatory abuse" committed by its fans.

Conti Blasts UEFA Over Soccer Chant Fiasco (The Universe 30/4/06)

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2 May 2006