ONE of Scotland’s most senior police officers has said there are concerns about rising disorder and sectarianism at football matches.

Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr said he is surprised at how “normal” sectarianism is, and at the aggression shown towards police from some fans. He said recent incidents include a flare being thrown at a police horse, officers being pulled from horses and others being spat at and attacked.

His comments came as Police Scotland said it was investigating reports of sectarian singing and coins being thrown when Hearts played Celtic at Tynecastle on Wednesday. Officers are also looking into footage of fans chanting offensive comments about former Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers in a bar before the game which was posted on social media.

Speaking at a Scottish Police Authority board meeting in Greenock, Kerr said: “The vast majority of fans who go to these football matches do so entirely peacefully.

“But what I’ve been surprised at over the last six months, particularly when it comes to behaviour at football matches, has been two things. One has been the level of sectarianism on display and I say that having policed in Northern Ireland for nearly 30 years. I’ve been surprised at how much it is seen as normal.”

Kerr said Police Scotland has also been concerned, particularly over the last 12 months, about a rise in disorder, offensive behaviour and levels of aggression towards police officers. He said: “We’ve had officers pulled off horses, spat at, attacked. Again, I’ve been surprised that the consistently thuggish behaviour of a very small number of fans is considered normal. This is not normal. It is a sport.

“There is a responsibility and a need for everybody, including the police service, to collectively challenge ourselves about how much that’s considered normal and what we can actually do to address it.”

Kerr said clubs, fans, police and councils all need to look at what can be done differently. An independent review of policing at football matches in Scotland is due out next week.