OVER 100 Celtic fan groups from across the world have told the club board that they will not co-operate with the rumoured appoinment of former Police Scotland commander Bernard Higgins to a senior security role.

They have written to the club's chief executive Michael Nicholson that they will "refuse to recognise or engage" with Mr Higgins if appointed.

Higgins was heavily involved in setting up the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, which was introduced in 2012 in a bid to clampd down on sectarianism.

The Fans Against Criminalisation campaign group argued the legislation had eroded trust between supporters and police and had failed to tackle bigotry.

The FAC warned of a "genuine danger to civil liberties" and the continuous criminalising of the young over minor offences if the controversial law was not repealed.

HeraldScotland:

Mr Higgins,  assistant chief constable, had defended the move saying a report of offensive behaviour need not lead to heavy-handed action.

The act, which applied only to football fans, was intended to deal with sectarian behaviour such as bigoted chanting at matches, in pubs or on public transport.

It also sought to prevent malicious communications that incited religious hatred on social media and the internet.

But on March 16 2018, the act was finally overturned by the Scottish Parliament almost exactly six years after it was introduced.

The overturning happened in the face of opposition of the government – one of the few times this has happened in the last 20 years of Scottish devolution.

Now in a letter to Mr Nicholson, the fans groups have stated: "We, the undersigned wish to state our objection to the rumoured appoitnment of Bernard Higgins as a member of Celtic FC's security staff.

"In his role as assistant chief constable with Police Scotland and as the national strategic lead for football, Higgins has been responsible for the policing of football fans for almost a decade.

"In the period since he was appointed to this position, the policing of football matches has changed dramatically, with the introduction of intrusive surveillance, the widespread use of football banning orders and a determination to arrest fans on spurious charges.

"This has caused irreparable damage to the lives of many Celtic fans as well as to the relationship between the supporters and Higgins himself.

"It must be made known that we will refuse to recognise or engage with Higgins if he is appointed, as his history makes him an unsuitable candidate to be taksed with the responsibility and security of Celtic supporters.

"We ask you to address this issue and to reconsider such an appointment."

Fans groups that have signed the letter have coming from across the world, including England, Romania, USA, New Zealand, even Russia.

HeraldScotland:

In 2016, Mr Higgins (above) said offensive behaviour was not just a problem for Celtic and Rangers.

"We've arrested people associated with 16 different clubs in Scotland," he said.

"So it's not exclusive to the Old Firm, it's not exclusive to the top flight. That's 16 clubs right the way through all divisions."

In 2017, he warned that Scots football fans should expect police to act over support for terrorist organisations. He insisted his officers would not tolerate any offensive displays by the hardline supporters.

He reacted after the FAC campaign group were critical of him warning controversial Celtic fans group the Green Brigade to leave politics at the turnstiles or face being arrested.

Mr Higgins at the time was unrepentant over his stance saying: “Over the years I have policed many events where political views have been expressed. That is what we do in a democracy. There is a massive difference between expressing a political view or supporting a terrorist organisation.

“If FAC want to sit down with me I will happily explain my position and reasons for it, however I would reiterate that any person showing support for a terrorist organisation should expect my officers to act, and thereafter it will be a matter for the Scottish courts to decide.”

Last week Celtic  chairman Ian Bankier offered Celtic fans no assurances over the rumoured appointment.

He was reluctant to give any concrete answers to the rumours.

Last month the Green Brigade announced a silent protest against the rumoured appointment for the match against Livingston.

HeraldScotland:

The fan group stated: "Higgins played a major part of the implementation of the much-hated Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act and passionately defended the legislation within the Scottish Parliament. 

"Assistant Chief Constable Higgins' remit involved strategic decisions on the policing of football across Scotland.

"His appointment would be no laughing matter, however. For hundreds of Celtic fans this would represent the ultimate insult."