A director of Motherwell’s majority shareholder, The Well Society, has slammed newly proposed draconian travel guidelines as a “real danger” for supporters and Scottish communities. 

A public consultation has been launched over a series of new rules that would govern travel for supporters' buses heading to sports matches across the country.  

Under the new proposals:  

  • Anyone running a bus would have to have to inform a 'dedicated football officer' or DFO 48 hours before the match of the number of supporters expected to travel, the number of vehicles booked, the name and the contact number for the person who made the booking  
  • Buses would not be allowed to stop within 10 miles of the stadium before or after the match without permission  
  • Buses would be banned from stopping at pubs unless alcohol is "sold ancillary to a substantial meal", and permission would have to be sought from the DFO  
  • Buses would have to arrive at the stadium "no earlier than two hours before and not later than one hour before the scheduled start of the game".  
  • Permission would have to be sought from police to pick up passengers at stops on the route  
  • Buses would be required to leave the stadium within 30 minutes of the end of the match  
  • Those running the bus would be required to inform the DFO of "any chanting demonstrating hostility based on race, ethnicity religion or beliefs, sexual orientation, disability, and transgender identity or chanting of an otherwise grossly offensive or inflammatory nature" which happened on the journey.  
  • Voluntary searches could be in place for things like alcohol and pyrotechnics.  

Derek Watson of the Well Society shared the guidelines on his Twitter page and the findings sparked fierce backlash from football fans across Scotland, who appear unanimously against the proposed changes.  

The SFA and SPFL are also against the proposed changes and last night they claimed the plans to introduce strict controls on the movement of supporters’ buses would “demonise” fans. 

A joint statement read: “There’s no evidence that this is a significant problem in Scottish football. 

“We are concerned by the targeted nature of these proposals, which serve to demonise football fans and interfere unnecessarily in people’s lives. 

“In Scotland, there are already appropriate powers held by PHV (private hire vehicle) operators, Police Scotland and other partners to deal effectively with a very small number of incidents by a minority of fans. 

“The consultation itself notes that the majority of football fans are law-abiding and do not cause any disturbances when travelling to or from games, yet these proposals would unfairly affect the vast majority of football fans who travel safely and respectfully to and from matches on a weekly basis. 

“We don’t support these unnecessary and heavy-handed proposals and we will be making our views clear in the consultation.” 

A Scottish Government spokesperson also claimed last night that they had not been consulted over the proposals. A spokesperson told The Herald: “The Traffic Commissioners for Great Britain have failed to involve the Scottish Government in this consultation.  

“We are now discussing the proposals with fans organisations, football authorities, Police Scotland, the Football Safety Officers Association, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association and hospitality trade bodies.” 

Watson, a Steelmen fanatic who has been going along to Fir Park since he was three, has called on Scottish football chiefs to continue their support to halt the guidelines coming into force, and he believes it will help the relationship between the SFA, SPFL and supporters moving forward.  

He told The Herald: “I want to say that I was shocked, but I wasn’t. As a football fan this is something that you have just become subjected to and used to over the years in Scotland while following your team.  

“I was disappointed, angry I suppose. It is nothing new and I suppose collectively it is something all football fans are going to have to deal with.  

“I don’t think any individual is going to change this. It is going to take fans coming together, club officials and CEOs and hopefully the governing body speaking out to make sure this doesn’t get pushed through.  

“For far too long the SPFL and SFA have ignored Scottish football fans. This is a real opportunity for them to try and get them back on side.” 

Watson also feels that football clubs across Scotland must speak out to celebrate and defend their supporters, who ultimately keep their respective teams afloat.  

Last night, Watson’s beloved Motherwell became the first football club to speak out on the proposals. The Scottish Premiership outfit said: “We have reviewed the UK Government consultation paper titled “Guidelines for taking passengers to sporting events in Scotland.” 

“The document details a number of proposed guidelines for public service vehicle (PSV) operators who provide transport for fans travelling to sporting events. These include potential restrictions on pick up points, arrival and departure times and limitations on where the vehicles can stop on route to a match. 

“Responses to the consultation are due by 24 November 2023 and, as a fan owned club, we will consult fully with our members before submitting our views. We believe it is important that we encourage as many fans as possible to attend matches and to make the experience as enjoyable and welcoming as possible. 

“The Board of the Well Society will issue a further update on how members can provide input into the consultation process.” 

Watson was delighted to see his club speak out and he hopes others will follow suit. He continued: “It is more important than ever that clubs stick by their fans from every angle they are getting demonised.  

“I can only speak as a Motherwell fan. We are a fan-owned football club meaning the fans are the life and soul of everything we do at Fir Park.  

“The difference that the fans and the football club make in their local community should not be underestimated.  

“I would like to see chief executives from as many clubs as possible to come out and oppose this.  

“Scottish football is really unique. I think the supporters are really the unique selling point of Scottish football.  

“I think clubs need to be shouting louder and prouder about what they have coming to see them every week.  

“If you look at every time Scottish football is marketed or advertised by broadcasters, it is always clips of the fans they use. It is not necessarily the best goal they use.  

“That is not something that necessarily applies in England because it has become a much more sanitised product.  

“That is because the prices have been going up and laws like this have been getting pushed through.  

“Their prices are forcing locals out of football because they know there is an international audience for it certainly in England.  

“We don’t have that in Scotland. We rely so heavily on our communities to be the lifeblood of these football clubs.  

“Laws and measures like this being put in place can be a real danger to that.”  

It is not just the harsh treatment of football fans that worries Watson. He also fears for local businesses across the country who rely heavily on supporters spending money in the community.  

He explained: “I genuinely struggle to see another section of society where they are constantly demonised and constantly belittled.  

“For me it is a real classist argument, why is this football time and time again and I think we all know the reason for that.  

“For me there is obviously draconian measures to this. It is about football fans being controlled and that is a serious concern.  

“I just know from looking around Motherwell, where we stay, there are so many businesses that rely heavily on an influx of away fans on match day.  

“There are pubs and restaurants that take a roar in trade. This could be the difference for them staying in business or going out of business, especially in such challenging times.”  

Watson’s tweet has already racked up nearly three million views, with politicians and sporting figures having their say on the proposed guidelines.  

But the Motherwell season ticket holder now hopes his tweet can be the start of a bigger movement with supporters and clubs from across the country joining forces.  

He added: “There have been so many people messaging. It is very rare that you have Celtic and Rangers fans and fans of all clubs across the country coming together and agreeing on something.  

“It just shows the strength of feeling there is towards this.  

“I know previously when the SNP government at the time tried to put through the offensive behaviour at football act, that was quite rightly repealed in Scottish parliament.  

“There was a backlash by football fans then and I think we are going to have to see similar steps taken now.   

“We are going to have to see fans of all clubs coming together and having a conversation on this, and talking about what can we do, rather than put out tweets that can make a meaningful impact, to make sure this can be stopped.”