UEFA OKs Anti-Catholic Singing from Blackshirt Era

Football news from Ekklesia:

Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow 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 the Spanish club Villareal.

…The offending behaviours of Rangers fans included the anti-Catholic chants, insults to the Pope and a traditional song ‘Billy Boys’ which talks about being “up to our knees in Fenian blood.”

The UEFA report concluded that such songs were part of “Scotland’s social and historical background.”

…Football in Glasgow has for many years been divided between the mainly Protestant club Rangers and the mainly Catholic side Celtic – together known as ‘the auld firm’. The history of rivalry and bad blood between them has included employment discrimination.

Complaints about the chanting and UEFA’s decision were reported in the media last month, but my mental filter usually blocks out any headline to do with sport. A Sunday Journal report reposted here gives a bit more background:

Billy Boys was the marching song of a “razor gang” based in Bridgtown [sic: should be Bridgeton] in Glasgow in the late 1920s and ’30s, led by one Billy Fullerton. He wasn’t a run-of-the-mill anti-Catholic bigot but a committed supporter of Oswald Mosely’s British Union of Fascists. The targets of his gang were not only Catholics but “Reds”: they helped smash up trade union and labour meetings when they weren’t hunting “Fenians.” This was one of the reasons they were tolerated by a “respectable” element which combined distaste for Irish Catholics with fear of Scottish socialists, particularly in the aftermath of “Red Clydeside.”

An academic essay on the topic by Andrew Sanders adds:

Fullerton had formed branches of the Ku Klux Klan in Scotland and the aims of these groups formed the basis for the ‘Billy Boys.’ The gang formed after Fullerton was attacked after a football match, in which he had scored the winning goal. He was brutally attacked with hammers and quickly, like minded individuals organised themselves into a gang in order to prevent such an attack taking place again. The gang are immortalised in the terrace chant, ‘Hello Hello (The Billy Boys)’…in which blatant sectarian language is used.

A discussion of Fullerton and his gang appeared in the Scotsman in 2004.

Meanwhile, a more general discussion of British racist (including anti-Semitic) football chanting can be read here.

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