BEFORE heading to Hampden last Sunday I was watching the start of the BT Sport coverage of the League Cup Final. They were broadcasting for ten hours and in the morning there was an interview with a bar manager, who was a Celtic supporter, who was busy organising the vast quantities of drink that was was going to be consumed in the ‘free bar’ in the fat cat corporate areas at Hampden.
He explained that there would be three hours of drinking before the game and one hour after the final whistle, then it would be over to the stewards to clear the place.
We covered extensively the ballot that Celtic held before the final and despite sending our findings onto the Lub we heard nothing back. Our Poll showed that there is a large percentage of Celtic season ticket holders on the HCTS who pay their money but never seem to get tickets for the big games. This is also a group who seem to get their tickets all the time, maybe suggesting that all Celtic supporters are equal in the eyes of the club but some are more equal that others.
Anyway, the point of mentioning this today is that those corporate lounges were full of fat cats or guests of fat cats who were there simply because they could afford to be there and who because of the huge ticket prices that were charged per head – were determined to take advantage of the ‘free’ bar.
Greed prevented ‘faithful through and through’ Celtic fans from getting tickets (and the same thing happened at the Rangers end of Hampden), it was all about the money, selling those lucrative corporate tickets for the Hampden final.
I was there at Hampden for the Scottish Cup Final on 10 May 1980 and the score was the same as last Sunday – Celtic 1 Rangers 0. Drink was freely available to everyone, you could even bring your carry-out into the game. After the final whistle some Celtic supporters ran onto the pitch to celebrate and the bitter Rangers fans responded leading to the Hampden Riot and the banning of drink at the game for the hoi polloi.
I travelled to Hampden last Sunday on the Tommy Gemmell CSC Supporters bus from Dunblane. The bus driver has to be vigilant regarding a football supporter consuming alcohol on the bus on the way to the game. Had his booking been to take rugby fans to Murrayfield then that would not have been a problem, it’s only football’s hoi polloi that is covered by the legislation that was introduced as a result of the 1980 Scottish Cup Final riot.
I’m NOT arguing that the is bad law or that it should be repealed or amended. But there is is surely an argument that there is a high level of hypocrisy in the SPFL and the clubs selling these corporate tickets at ultra high prices with the justification being that you can drink as much as you like.
I didn’t notice anyone particularly the worse for ware in the North Stand. Yes some would have had a few drinks before the game but most probably waited until after the game for a few celebration drinks. However over in the ‘Fat Cats’ the ‘free bar’ was in full flow. The Green and Blue fat cats are separated so the only place where the two came into contact was in the Ultra-fat cat section – where the directors of the two clubs and their guests are all together.
There is an unwritten code in the Director’s box. For instance you don’t or shouldn’t celebrate a goal being scored – something that the Rangers party did not stick to in the 2016 Scottish Cup semi-final and you are also supposed to be polite, courteous and gracious regardless of how the game went.
What you don’t do is getting steaming drunk, lie down on the floor and then get into some kind of argument with the Rangers party in the Director’s box at Hampden at a Cup Final.
Yesterday, as usual we got into Celtic Park about an hour before the kick-off. It is pretty quiet at that stage. There is a very friendly steward who always stands in the same place and we always have a chat before going to our seats. Yesterday he asked if we were at Hampden and did we enjoy it. He then told us the story about Rod Stewart’s eventful day and how it all ended.
Before the Final Rod was interviewed on BT Sport and he finished up be asking the Green Brigade to behave. He had previously spoken out against the Green Brigade’s use of flares in Rome in the 2-1 win over Lazio and was presumably happy with the Board’s decision to ban the Ultras from the game against Rennes.
It’s fair to say that there are tensions there between the Green Brigade and the Celtic Board and that the Millionaire rockstar is very much in the side of the Board, which incidentally is fair enough.
However to come out and tell the Green Brigade to behave ahead of the Cup Final then to be involved in an incident with the Rangers party in the Director’s Box lounge is embarrassing to say the least. The fact that the Green Brigade responded yesterday with their banner after Rod Stewart’s congratulation to Boris tweet is therefore understandable.
However two wrongs don’t make a right. Celtic is a club open to all. The Green Brigade bring colour, energy and noise to the support and have done brilliant work for charity over the years. They don’t get much support for their flares and they themselves have and will continue to pay the penalty for that as Celtic get fed up paying the fines to UEFA.
They brought politics into the Europa League with the sweary word Lazio chant and most people at the ground were happy to join in. And they mentioned politics in their banner yesterday which fails with many Celtic fans who believe that we are, always have been and always will be a club open to all. That always is challenged when various political causes are mentioned, whether it be to do with Ireland, the Falkland War, the Middle East or whatever. Recently we published a letter from a serving military man who talked on behalf of the Celtic supporting troops and reckoned that the Green Brigade didn’t speak for them.
So it’s there. It’s always been there. It always will be there. Personally I saw that banner as a ‘get it right up ye Rod’ response. It was a Green Brigade message and it was always going to get them plenty of publicity. They knew they’d get plenty of flak but cared not a jot about that. When Liverpool were playing in Salzburg last week their fans were chanting ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’ and at the Charity Shield match at the start of the season they actually booed the National Anthem.
Rod is probably more concerned about the implications of him behaving badly at Hampden rather than the Celtic ultras having a pop at him yesterday. Who he votes for, the fact that he once wore a Rangers strip at a charity match or that he has received an honour from the Queen makes zero difference to Most Celtic supporters. He’s just a Hoops fan like the rest of us. Meanwhile the next time there’s a big game at Hampden the Fat Cats will get first shout for the tickets and the ‘free’ bar will be flowing one again and our driver will be watching out for anyone trying to bring a few cans onto the bus.