Fans group slams ‘draconian’ SPFL plans for facial recognition surveillance


Club body requests PS4m from Scottish Government for crack-down
A FANS’ campaign organisation has attacked plans by the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) to introduce facial recognition technology at matches in efforts to identify fans engaged in ‘offensive behaviour’.
The measure is part of a proposed crackdown on the singing of ‘sectarian’ songs and other so called offensive behaviour for which the SPFL, which represents Scottish football clubs, is seeking PS4m from the Scottish Government.
The measures come after years of controversey over legislation designed to curb so-called sectarianism but which has also been used to arrest fans for various kinds of fan expression and activities, including protests.
The group Fans Against Criminalisation (FAC), which was set up to oppose the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, told CommonSpace that the proposals to use facial recognition technology to monitor fans were ‘draconian’.
A FAC spokesperson said: “Fans Against Criminalisation are horrified by recent proposals to introduce a facial recognition scheme for football fans and assume that all those who value civil liberties will be similarly appalled.
“This is a draconian scheme which treats all supporters as criminals. It is astonishing that at a time when social services are being cut anyone would suggest spending such an obscene amount of money on filming and collating information on law abiding supporters.”
The SPFL also wants to establish a database from the facial recognition monitoring activity, so that clubs can be alerted to certain fans entering club grounds.
Responding to the FAC comments, a spokesperson for the SPFL said: “The SPFL is working with government and other partners with the aim of establishing a workable solution to help rid our football grounds of unacceptable conduct.
“The issue of unacceptable conduct is something that the SPFL, its Board and its member clubs are absolutely committed to addressing. Recognising that certain behaviours are for society to face and address as a whole, we believe football can take a leading role in moving this issue forward for Scottish society.”
The new measures come after years of escalating conflict between football fans and Police Scotland. In 2013 around 200 police kettled hundreds of Celtic fans in Glasgow’s Gallowgate, arresting 13.
In 2015 CommonSpace reported on a confrontation between police officers and young fans where the officers allegedly verbally abused them .
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Picture courtesy of FAC