Old wine in new bottles: Scottish sectarianism and online communities

S. O'Loan, A. Poulter, D. McMenemy

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Sectarianism in Europe is an unwanted social phenomenon caused by deep-rooted historical antipathies between communities separated by religion and/or national allegiance. In Scotland, following its 16thcentury Protestant Reformation, Catholicism declined until it wasforcibly suppressed after the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobites at Culloden in 1715. In the 19th century, beginning after the Great Famine in Ireland, and continuing with the rise to worldpre-eminence in ship building and allied heavy industry of Glasgow, a large influx of Catholic Irish workers arrived in the west of Scotland, reawakening sectarianism. This tension exists today, most visibly in the 'Old Firm' (OF) rivalry between Glasgow Celtic and Glasgow Rangers, the two pre-eminent football teams in Scotland, whose supporters tend to come respectively from Catholic and Protestant communities in Glasgow. Unlike Northern Ireland, in Scotland there is no deep political feud, so sectarian tension expresses itself in insults, gestures and occasional street violence, linked to football allegiances. The lack of inhibition offered by online discussion boards may result in the propagation of OF sectarian views in this new medium where football is the topic. This paper will present an analysis of postings to discussion boards for Celtic and Rangers and for equivalent derby rivals in Scotland: Dundee and Dundee United from Dundee. Since Glasgow and the English city Liverpool share a common history, its derby rivals Liverpool and Everton will also be studied. Research will differentiate between football 'banter' including strongly felt but expected sporting hostilities and truly damaging sectarian content. Since there is a lack of agreement on the exact definition of sectarianism from both outside and within the two communities a process of categorisation and elimination will be used. Conversation on a football message board should be about football; any non-football related threads will placed in an 'off-topic' category and then analysed for statements or conflict which have religious or political communal bases. It may well be that online sectarianism breeds counter-argument and public derision and thus the new medium of message boards might lead to the demise of an old social problem.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2005
EventGOR'05 - International General Online Research Conference, Zurich - Zurich, Switzerland
Duration: 22 Mar 200523 Mar 2005


ConferenceGOR'05 - International General Online Research Conference, Zurich
CityZurich, Switzerland


  • online sectarianism
  • glasgow celtic
  • glasgow rangers
  • message boards
  • online discussion


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