Church leaders back call for 'showcase' Old Firm game

Celtic and Rangers fans
Image caption Celtic and Rangers will meet at Hampden in Glasgow on Sunday

Church leaders in Scotland have backed an appeal for a "showcase" Old Firm game on Sunday.

Celtic and Rangers will meet at the Co-operative Insurance cup final following an ill-tempered clash last month.

First Minister Alex Salmond issued a plea for a final of which "all of Scotland can be proud".

The Catholic Church and Church of Scotland said there was no excuse for violence, abuse and bigotry connected to football matches.

In a joint statement, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland's General Assembly, The Right Reverend John Christie, and Cardinal Keith O'Brien, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, described football as an "enormous force for good in society".

They said it brought the young and old, Scots and people from across the globe together in a "shared passion for our national game".

"We understand fully that sometimes this passion spills over and can cause serious problems, some of which are felt far from the football grounds," the statement added.

"Of course, this is something we stand together against - there is never an excuse for violence, abuse and bigotry, however that connects to football matches."

"Consequently, we would wish to give every possible encouragement to those involved in the process of ensuring that our major football matches are always forces for good and do not disgrace the good name of Scotland."

Mr Salmond said police had made "crystal clear" to players and staff where their responsibilities lie in the run-up to the final at Hampden Park in Glasgow.

He said: "However that responsibility extends to every fan at the match and watching on television.

"The result of a game of football is never an excuse for unacceptable or illegal behaviour, whether that be violence or bigotry.

"Neither is the misuse of alcohol, which fuels such behaviour."

He added: "These things shall not be tolerated in modern Scotland."

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