Nil By Mouth eyes charity role with SPFL

By Richard WilsonBBC Scotland
SPFL logo
The Scottish Professional Football League is looking for a charity partner

Anti-sectarianism campaign group Nil By Mouth has applied to become the official charity partner of the Scottish Professional Football League.

Its proposal has been lodged with the governing body, which set a deadline of Friday for applications.

The charity hopes to utilise the high-profile nature of the partnership for anti-sectarian initiatives.

Director Dave Scott said: "Football can be a positive voice rather than perceived as part of the problem."

Nil By Mouth campaign director Dave Scott
"Sectarianism has always presented a challenge to the game in Scotland."

Nil By Mouth was established by Cara Henderson in 1996 after her friend, Mark Scott, was murdered on his way home from a football match.

The charity campaigns against sectarianism and provides training and advice workshops for all age groups.

Its bid to become the SPFL's official charity partner comes in the same week as Anthony Stokes, the Celtic player, revealed that he was the victim of sectarian abuse at Tynecastle during Celtic's Scottish Cup victory over Hearts.

A Hearts fan was banned by the club for life following an arrest for sectarian abuse. The club's owner, Ann Budge, was critical of those fans who behaved badly, including Celtic supporters.

Nil By Mouth hopes that an association with the SPFL, and the opportunity to work with all 42 league clubs in Scotland, would allow the game to take on a higher-profile role in addressing sectarianism.

Around one third of sectarian arrests are football related and the recommendations involving football that were drawn up in a report by Dr Duncan Morrow of Belfast University and a team of Scottish Government advisors have yet to be implemented.

"Sectarianism has always presented a challenge to the game in Scotland," said Scott.

Hearts' Prince Buaben and Celtic captain Scott Brown
Sunday's Scottish Cup tie between Hearts and Celtic led to accusations about fan sectarianism

"That is why we want to work with the SPFL to create positive change and improve Scottish football's reputation and the match-day experience for tens of thousands of supporters.

"Our bid doesn't simply ask clubs for their help. We are also offering an extensive range of training and awareness programmes for players, staff, youth teams and academies.

"By working together, we raise awareness of the need to address sectarianism."

Nil By Mouth is not seeking financial support from football and all the training would be provided free of charge.

It would also seek to put on workshops at local schools, in partnership with league clubs.

The partnership would, though, provide a higher-profile and greater reach for its work.

The charity also believes that the messages will be stronger because of the popularity of the game and the players.

Nil By Mouth believes that football has been made a scapegoat for a problem that is rooted in society but also recognises that the game can play a significant role in highlighting and tackling sectarianism.

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