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Alan Brazil: Why didn’t the SFA beat UEFA to the punch with punishments for Rangers?

© Craig Williamson / SNS GroupThe Old Firm divide at Ibrox last Sunday during the first Premiership clash of the season
The Old Firm divide at Ibrox last Sunday during the first Premiership clash of the season

Fair play to the SFA for applauding UEFA’s crackdown on sectarianism at Ibrox.

But if Hampden chiefs are really so happy about it, the question is: Why didn’t they get tough themselves years ago?

It’s not as if the songs UEFA have reacted against by closing sections of Rangers’ stadium are a new thing.

Song like Billy Boys have been ringing around Ibrox for years.

So the fact it has taken UEFA to start the push for change is something the SFA should be ashamed about.

Those at Hampden should be saying to themselves: “Why didn’t we act first?”

What has the problem been?

Have the folk at the top of the national association bottled it?

Has it been because of where their allegiances lie?

These questions need to be asked.

As far as the Gers’ song book – and Celtic’s for that matter – goes, I’m personally not offended.

I grew up in Glasgow at a time where insults about your football team and your background were absolutely commonplace.

It’s water off a duck’s back to me.

When I think back to being a Celtic-supporting kid in Simshill, most of my pals were Protestant guys who were Rangers fans.

They’d walk 100 yards to school at King’s Park, while I had to get on a bus and go two-and-a-half miles to Holyrood Secondary in Govanhill.

We’d play football together and get up to all sorts together. We were as thick as thieves.

But, come match day, we hated each other.

We were on opposite sides of the Old Firm divide, and we’d call each other all sorts.

On the surface, I can see why people would think that was bizarre.

But for me, it was just growing up, and once the Celtic-Rangers game was done and dusted, we were back to being best mates again.

I’m sure lots of people who grew up in Glasgow when I did have got similar stories.

I’m sure people growing up in the Glasgow area now do, too.

I don’t believe those people are bigots.

All of those early experiences are part of the reason why it doesn’t put me up nor down if somebody calls me names.

But I do realise we’re in a new era now.

UEFA have made their stance clear on bigotry and sectarianism inside our grounds, and a lot of moderates in Scotland would agree with them.

Whether or not Rangers fans themselves agree, the action taken against their club seems to have made an impact.

The fact the Billy Boys didn’t get its traditional airing at the Old Firm game last Sunday stands as proof of that.

New SFA president, Rod Petrie, hopes a “sea change” in attitudes will result from UEFA stepping in.

But, again, that begs the question of why the SFA didn’t take a similar stand years ago.

As I said, those questions are there to be answered by somebody at Hampden.

But in Scotland we’re probably guilty of brooding too much about the past.

Those songs sung at Ibrox about events in 1690 testify to that.

Yes, the SFA have been guilty of inaction on sectarianism for far too long.

But the current hierarchy have been given an opportunity to finally get tough.

UEFA have been very clear. They have said: “We won’t accept this stuff in our competitions and if it doesn’t stop, we’ll shut your ground.”

Now it’s up to the Scottish powers that be to follow suit – not just at Ibrox but any ground where bigotry rears its head.

I hope they’ve got the guts to do it.