Saturday, August 26, 2006

Fined for Being a Christian

I was listening to the news this morning and caught the tail end of a piece which I thought said that a footballer had been arrested to making the sign of the cross during a football match. Nah, I thought. Must have misheard. However, it appears that the old Dale hearing is in perfect working order as the venerable Archbishop Cranmer (for it is he) has emailed from beyond his grave to alert me to THIS post on his blog which details the whole sorry story. This is what the BBC website says...

Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc has been cautioned for a breach of the peace by police for blessing himself in an Old Firm match at Ibrox in February. The Crown Office said the procurator fiscal had issued the caution as an alternative to prosecution. A spokesman explained that Boruc's actions "included a combination of behaviour before a crowd in the charged atmosphere of an Old Firm match". And that the Polish keeper's behaviour had "provoked alarm and crowd trouble". The incident was said to have taken place at the start of the second half of the game on 12 February. Police investigated the complaints and submitted a report to the procurator fiscal. "It's a worrying and alarming development, especially since the sign of the cross is globally accepted as a gesture of religious reverence," said Peter Kearney, a spokesman for the Catholic Church.

I accept that Celtic v Rangers matches are highly charged affairs, but the sign of the cross is used by both Protestants and Catholics alike. It's used by all sorts of sportsmen just before they begin to perform or after they score. To be cautioned by the Police for making the sign before a game of football is nothing short of a disgrace. And I speak as a confirmed agnostic. We are after all a Christian country.

Let's imagine that in the Cricket World Cup, Pakistan plays India and one of the Pakistani Muslim players bows to Mecca. Do we really think the Police would even contemplate cautioning him because he may have offended the off Hindu India supporter? Of course not, and nor should they. All the Police have achieved by this ridiculous caution is a further accentuation of the religious divide.

UPDATE: Me Eugenides has a different take on this HERE.


Anonymous said...

Actually, he was thanking God for his ability to win, and thanking God is the Christian thing to do.

Anonymous said...

When playing for Middlesbrough Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink used to put his finger tips to the turf, kiss them then cross himself. I always thought him quite brave considering the ground the turf was laid on used to be a chemical works (Allegedly thoroughly cleaned up) Nobody ever thought to prosecute him for this and divine assistance would have been useful.

strapworld said...

This is yet further proof that we are under attack in this country. This time from politically Correct Proculate Afiscal's (NOT the police Iain)

The ridiculous contibution from 'ornette'
ignores the fact (as you quite rightly said in your blog) that players from all christian faiths do it and I am sure the other side included player/s who gave the sign of the cross. It is a prayer that they will play well to the best of the ability and not what the crass ornette suggests.

Interesting that the deeply beloved archbishop of canterbury has said nothing! Wake up dear nearded one the christian faith is under attack!!!

Prodicus said...

No, he wasn't.

Theo Spark said...

You are not allowed to have faith anymore

Anonymous said...


This is nothing to do with being a Christian. Every player on the field at an Old Firm game knows what are the signals to give to the supporters to whip up the sectarianism. Hence Gazza with his infamous flute incident.

The police action was tough but understandable. *Every* old firm game leads to *at least* one death because of sectarianism. Whilst I was a bit shocked at the news at first on later reflection I think the police deserve praise. The disgusting displays of hatred at the OF games have to end. Much better to have the beach balls and the sombreros :)

I know this is beyond the ken of most people in England - you've got over this particular piece of your history. But for those of us from the North of Ireland or the West of Scotland it is all too real.

I write as a confirmed Celtic supporter. Hail! Hail!

Anonymous said...

In this case it may simply be a case of Old Firm sectarian bigotry. Perhaps the judge was a Rangers fan.

Anonymous said...

Next they'll be fining people for believing in made-up children's fairy stories...oh, wait...

Ross said...

I was listening to a radio phone in about this and what thing that is clear is that Boruc does this at the beginning of each half every time he plays, whether for Celtic or Poland, so it isn't as though it was a gesture made to antagonise Rangers supporters.

Anonymous said...

Scratching your arse at Ibrox is tantamount to causing an affray amongst the 15th century time travellers who attend the stylised continuation of the good fight. God is, of couse, on both their sides, just like everywhere else in the world's troublespots.

Anonymous said...

It does seem a little extreme however if politics isn't allowed (Robbie Fowler and the Liverpool dockers) in the game then religion shouldn't be given a special pass...

towcestarian said...

I was thinking of starting a religion where we expressed our devotion by making a V sign with our fingers and waving it about in non-believers faces. What is nice to know is that Cranmer and Dale would back us up 100% if we ever got into difficulties with the rozzers.

The only problem with the handling of the Buroc incident is the certainty that the same sort of thing would never happen in the UK to a non-Christian religion (except for mine obviously). All religions should be treated with equal disdain in the eyes of the law.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said

sums it up from a West of Scotland viewpoint - it is pointless trying to get these people to act in a civilised manner.

Strapworld - the police issue cautions as an alternative to being reported to the Procurator Fiscal who then decides whether to proceed to trial. A caution does not have to be accepted and the accused then takes a chance as to being prosecuted.


Anonymous said...

Those who find this wrong headed and strange should read this eye witness account ..
It is quite clear his intention was to inflame the Rengers fans and in the context of sectarian murder being commonplace after old firm matches it is clearly an breach of the peace ..

Archbishop Cranmer said...

Thank you, Mr Dale, for linking to my post on this, but your heading is not what happened, and Anon (1.06pm) has missed the point.

Mr Boruc has not been fined. He accepted a caution, and now therefore has a criminal record.

Had it been a fine, it would have been more acceptable for the following reason (which Anon fails to grasp). When Paul Gascoigne pretended to play the flute, an exclusively Loyalist gesture, it was clear provocation. He was fined. That was the end of the matter.

Mr Boruc crossed himself, which is a general Christian gesture, not exclusively nationalist, and he gets a criminal record.

My post asks why there is such a disparity between the punishments.

Anonymous said...

Petty, smallminded arseholes. I really must argue the point that you shouldn't inflame the arseholes by making a religious gesture - that is pandering to the arseholes - the great British pastime.

We are now suffering the results of such pandering - enough is enough.

Anonymous said...

Iain. What about having "your colours done" to see which colours suit you best on your banner?!

Scipio said...

Guys, this is the point!

1. Football still seems to thrive on ignorance, racism and bigotry - of which the Catholic/Proddy rivalry at an Odd Firm game is merely a reflection. Elsewhere it is making monkey noises when black players come onto the pitch, or wishing Baby Beckham dies of cancer, or the old favourate, bags of piss thrown at opposition fans!

2. He wasn't busted for crossing himself in a private manner, or during a moment of peaceful reflection (which would have been outrageous). He was busted because he was doing something in a calculated manner which was intended to inflame sectarian tensions (i.e. giving the Ranger's fans the 'wanker' sign as well), which, given the general stooopidity of the average 'Old Firm' attendence, could have lead to a riot!

If he has walked onto the picth, walked to his goal, then facing forward, crossed himslef - no problem - no one would have noticed and no trouble caused! But by doing what he did, in the way he did - and followed it up with the old 'wanker' gesture, he was asking for trouble - and well have got it!

The idea that the man in question is a quiet God fearing church going young upstanding member of society is something that I find hard to believe - especially when he followed up the cross thing with the wanker thing.

I wonder when the last time he attended mass was?

He deserves the caution just for being so stupid!

But then I hate football and the agression you see so often at football matches!

Mr Eugenides said...

The initial BBC report suggested that Boruc had been cautioned for making a private expression of faith. If this had indeed been the case, it would have been a grotesque situation.

However, as I've tried to explain, having been present at the match and seen the incident, the player is not an innocent victim here; and, with respect to Iain and some other commenters, he has not been singled out "for being Christian", and this is not about political correctness. Later versions of the BBC report have been edited to reflect the more complex circumstances of the case.

Whatever your viewpoint on this, there is no doubt that the man's actions were, at the very least, unwise. People die in the aftermath of Old Firm games - shockingly. It is not the occasion to be indulging in provocative actions, however petty the sort of mind that is willing to be so provoked.

Anonymous said...

This gesture was clearly meant to antagonise. Old firm games take place in hate filled arenas with both sets of supporters spouting their bile - it's not a nice place to be, believe me i've been there and won't be going back because of it. The crowds need little encouragement but doing so only heightens tensions and the chances of some poor bugger getting done in / stabbed for wearing the wrong colour of top later that night. Pathetic - yes, but true - yes.

Yak40 said...

We are after all a Christian country.

That was then, this is now - a wannabe multi-culti cesspit where the cops spend months on tripe like this while, just to give one example, a young father is slashed by a gang arousing zero interest from Plod then shot dead a few months later.

Terry Hamblin said...


I think that you will find that crossing oneself is a feature of some religious traditions, but certainly not of Scottish Presbyterianism, to whom it is offensive. In this case it seems to have been designed to be provocative, aimes at stirring up sectarian violence.

Poles are mostly Roman Catholics and for them the gesture is traditional, so perhaps the goalkeeper was ignorant of the offence he was causing.

I must say that when I as an evangelical Christian see European players cross themselves as they enter the field of play, I am not offended, but just a little irritated by the display of superstition.

Anonymous said...

God dammit!

Anonymous said...

Mr Eugenides post is full of self-serving crap and undermined by himself.

"Artur Boruc, the Celtic goalkeeper, trotted towards his goal in front of the massed ranks of Rangers fans, who gave him hearty abuse as fans do."

Ah right, so they were breaching the peace and possibly causing affray.

If the reaction of some fans to a return of the serve was to threaten violence then they are more than over the line in breaking the same law.

Yet it is the lumpens being placated here. The lesson they learn is that they can threaten violence and get away with it.

And has Mr Eugenides reported these people for breaching the peace as he defends his dystopic club? Did he report the "FTP Brigade" as David Murray calls them? Er, no.

But then such old firm fans are legendary for failing to see the mote in their own eye and indulge in a bit of "whataboutery".

All folk like the police, the PF and Mr Eugenides have done is make Scotland look backward as the sectarian mob gets placated.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, having been brought up in Glasgow, I believe the police action is probably reasonable on this occasion. Slightly worrying how many people commented without any idea of the background in Rangers/Celtic matches - example of why Tories still so weak in Scotland?

Mr Eugenides said...

"Emabarrsed jock" -

My post on this subject bent over backwards to try and be reasonable, and to present the context of the incident, and the facts of the incident itself, in as even-handed way as I could, while still giving an opinion. There was a lot of disinformation floating about yesterday morning; no-one seemed to have seen the incident. I had; so I thought it reasonable to describe what I had seen.

That's why, for example, I referred to the abuse the player was getting from the stands; that's why I made the point about the double standard that applies at football matches of players routinely getting abuse but being expected not to respond; why I agreed that it would be a very bad thing if this was seen to give carte blanche to bigotry; and why I said that a caution was in my opinion an overreaction.

That's also why I identified myself as a Rangers fan: in the blogging world I strongly believe we have a duty to declare our interests in these cases.

None of that is "undermining my case", you twit, that's balance. I can't pretend to be impartial but that doesn't mean that I can't present readers with both sides of the story, and try to make clear where the facts end and my opinion begins.

As for your "point" about the fans being guilty of breaching the peace, there was nothing to suggest that this was the case, and no suggestion of any "threats of violence" to the player (where did this come from?). Did I report them? For what? Shouting loudly? Try going up to a Glasgow policeman and putting in a complaint after an Old Firm game - "they were shouting and swearing, officer - honestly, it was terrible!" and you'll get laughed out of the station.

The job of the police and authorities in this situation is to maintain the peace between 50-60,000 fans, some of whom hate each other implacably. In this context, perhaps the worst possible thing any footballer can do is provoke the crowd. I wonder if you would have come out after Gazza played a flute in front of Celtic fans and said that fining him two weeks' wages was "giving in to the sectarian mob"? Players need to have a sense of responsibility to go with their hefty wage packets. The police action was merely a heavy-handed way of trying to enforce this policy of public safety.

Unlike Iain, I don't blog about football; this is the reason. It's not possible to make even the mildest observations on Rangers or Celtic without a ton of sh*t descending on you - from both sides. I've got more abuse in the last 24 hours than in the previous 9 months I've been blogging.

I've perused some messageboards etc north of the border and, believe me, my post was a model of even-handedness compared to most of the crap that is being said about this. I'm embarrassed too, "Emabarrsed jock" - for your spelling and my city.

Scipio said...

"The job of the police and authorities in this situation is to maintain the peace between 50-60,000 fans, some of whom hate each other implacably".

Why? It's a bloody game of football! Why does sectarianism have to get tagged onto a bunch of overpaid tossers kicking an inflated pigs bladder around a pitch!

I think this just proves my point about football and footballers. That's why, even though I like watching the odd game of footy on the box, I will NEVER EVER EVER go to a football game. I prefer sports where I am not penned in for my own safety from the oppossing fans. I like sports where you can freely mingle with people supporting the other side knowing they are not going to spit at you!

That's why I like rugby!

We keep our violence on the picth and off the terraces!

Anonymous said...

If you Brits had a First Amendment, this kind of thing could never happen. You need to get rid of that rich welfare mama at the head of your government and form yourself into a real democracy.

Scipio said...

Hey Happy yank - whilst not disagreeing with your general distatse for Tony Blair, I would ask if this democracy you talk about is that the kind that we then bomb other people into adopting?

Please remember that our democracy was the one which you guys based yours on - seperation of powers, representation and taxation going hand in hand, freedom based on property etc etc. We exported our democracy to the USA, and the founding fathers based the constituion on the notions and concepts which were bastions of liberal enlightened thinking at that time. Sadly, American democracy has lost a great deal of credibility since then, and I suspect that the founding fathers would be turning in their grave if they could see just how far the once great USA has fallen!

Although not perfect, and although seriously undermined by this shoddy government since 1997, the British constitution is a fine example of how non-codified law can preserve liberty.

When you think that in America you have Nazi's carrying guns and claiming they have a constitutional right to do so - and the majority of Americans who (I believe) are against such free access to guns cannot stop them, big corportaions bank rolling politicians, only half the population bothering to vote - and you end up with morons like GW Bush in the White House, I think I will take OUR democracy over yours any day!

Could be worse though - you could have a European type constitutional deomcaracy!

Anonymous said...

I'm not a christian nor follow any such religion, but i'm interest in hearing people views on this situation with Boruc. I don't support Celtic nor Rangers but was brought up amidst of the West of Scotland crass sectarianism and understand the meanings for both sets of followers.
If it is deemed an offence for Mr Boruc to make a sign of the cross which is used world wide, then surely when Gascoigne for Rangers made the sign of the flute as a gesture when playing in an old-firm game deserves a more severe punihment as this could be for people of the West of Scotland enogh to insight a riot (all out war) between the fans. What happened to him? He claimed he didn't realise what this meant? I think not; however there is a chance that Boruc may not have realised how this might be percieved. If anything he should be given a warning and bless himself more discreatly when facing the other half of the old firm but then again why should he if this is a ritual if you like that he goes through everytime he plays? If it's not then he needs to be more cautious.

Anonymous said... Glad that the truth behind the whole story is starting to come out in mainstream news.

This whole story just goes to show how little the press investigate news stories before writing misleading things.

Alex Salmond et al should really try and find out facts before they go making ridiculous statements.