Despite Celtic hammering Dundee Utd 6-2 at Celtic Park at the weekend, there was an eerie silence from the notably empty Section 111.
We all know who occupies that bit of the ground. The effervescent and colourful Green Brigade. The group who have brought back the thunder to Celtic Park.
For years, the stadium lacked atmosphere. Football, you see is no longer the working class man’s game. Guys who spent the week working in laborious, sometimes dangerous, jobs took to the football as their release. The demographics have changed, the songs we used to sing have changed. It’s no longer Spearmint Chewing Gum, Tablet and Macaroon; you can have a McDonald-style meal at many outlets.
Stadiums, namely all-seated ones, have become sanitised and I recall bemoaning the lack of atmosphere at Celtic Park outwith Rangers games and European Nights.
Enter the Green Brigade with their drums, banners and colourful songs (which may I add Celtic FC has exploited for marketing purposes). They’re different to any other fan groups. They class themselves as Ultras. Many associated that phrase with hooliganism but that could not be further from the truth. Have they stepped over the mark with political banners? That’s a matter of opinion.
You see, people often remark that you should not mix football with politics. Is that right? Well the First Minister of Scotland openly asked questions about HMRC’s motives in the Big Tax Case, and was duly praised in some quarters. Yet, the Green Brigade raise political banners and are castigated heavily in the press.
The worrying thing for me is that the police appear to be openly harassing football fans. Not just the Green Brigade but Celtic fans as a whole. There’s was pictures flying about cyberspace after the recent Hearts game at Tynecastle of FoCUS filming the supporters. I know that there were pictures taken at that game of fans who are in no way associated with the Green Brigade. Football fans in general are treated like 2nd Class Citizen’s – herded like animals from the ground to the buses and trains.
Now, Celtic took their turn to release a statement following Saturday’s events. Call me cynical bit it’s fairly non-committal.
“OVER the course of the weekend, the Club has been made aware of further reports and allegations concerning the ill-treatment of supporters by police at Celtic Park. Celtic Football Club will not tolerate any unjust or inappropriate treatment of our supporters. The health, safety and well-being of our supporters is of paramount importance.”
Have Celtic not written to the police or spoken with Focus regarding this filming of their fans? Are Focus as active with other fans and their fan groups? Are they filming at Tannadice when Aberdeen or Hearts visit? I’d be extremely surprised if they do. Are they looking for a high-profile scalp?
The Statement goes on with debatable content, which I find myself a tad skeptical about.
“It is important that we deal in facts: We have continually asked our supporters to report any incidents of ill-treatment or harassment directly to the Club and our absolute commitment has been that each incident or complaint will be investigated. In addition, in December last year, it was agreed with our supporters’ groups that any such complaints could also be made through the Fans Against Criminalisation Group (The Celtic Supporters´ Association, The Green Brigade, The Affiliation of Registered Celtic Supporters´ Clubs, the Association of Irish Celtic Supporters´ Clubs and The Celtic Trust). Since December last year, we have received two complaints directly to the Club, both of which have been addressed.”
Call me naïve, but and it’s a big but, who, as a fan, would report a member of the police to any group or the club itself. Can you imagine speaking to Ronnie Hawthorne (whom I believe is ex-police)? If you were to be arrested, rightly or wrongly, at a Celtic match, does that not mean an automatic ban from the ground? It’d be a risky strategy to say the least.
Can you see Tommy McCrindle buying into all this? Or Focus or Strathclyde Police? Ultimately it’s the police who grant the Safety Certificates for games and I’m sure they’ll not take Celtic or anyone else for that matter tell them what they can do? Do you see the “Glesga Polis” sitting round with cups of tea and chocolate digestives discussing the way forward?
Further into the statement we are told the following, which to me is too little too late.
“Furthermore, Celtic has now proposed that, together with its supporters´ groups, we establish a Complaints Panel consisting of supporter and Club representatives. This group will administer any complaints and will provide feedback to supporters.”
Members of the Green Brigade have been arrested, one on return from holiday at the airport. This isn’t M15 looking for Lord Lucan – it’s a young Celtic fan who’s crime was to unfurl a Zombie Banner at an away game in Norwich – in front of his family. Do Celtic not know about this? Could they not have played Devil’s Advocate? What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Worst still – the first of the Norwich II charged was laughed out of Court last week.
So, this fan has taken time of work, been put under huge stress and of course, missing his beloved Celtic in action.
What irks me most about the club is the lack of support shown back to its fans. You know the guys that pay in excess of £500 per season. The Green Brigade made the Barcelona games what it was. They shelled out in the region of £10,000 for the “Tifo” which bedecked the whole of the Stadium. What about merchandise that the Club has bastardised from the Green Brigade? I’d also ask those fans who criticise them – Did you raise the display on that night, did you thank them for their tireless efforts?
And if Celtic is working with the fans, why were members of Section 111 “banned” for one game (Saturday’s). Who gave the say-so on this. Where’s the explanation for it?
Celtic deny working closely with Focus but only a fool would believe that in this case. They are now a permanent feature at Celtic Park and all away grounds.
The other question is, how much money is this costing the taxpayer? What does it cost to send Focus on their jollies to the European matches (for this see Mr McCrindle’s Social Networking Site)? We are told police resources are stretched? Well, not for these guys. Unless by stretched you mean that they stretch from Tulliallan to Turin?
I’m wondering what the motive is here? Is it driven by Celtic or the police? Why in the hell would Celtic let such a good thing go? I’m not going to make any bold predictions but should they disband, the atmosphere will die a death. Many fans on many sites have posed the question, “Would you review your Season Ticket if the Green Brigade went?”. I know I would, ultimately, as I support Celtic but I find it extremely difficult not to have solidarity with Section 111.
Celtic need to be heavily instrumental in what happens next.
The fate of the Green Brigade lies in their hands.
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