The Green Brigade: Praised by the world, banned by Celtic…
Almost two weeks ago, I gave my opinion on Celtic suspending the Green Brigade’s access to away tickets. I had been asking the question, “is there more punishment to come?”, and it would appear that I was right to ask, as the club have now taken things a step further.
Season ticket holders associated with the Green Brigade were sent the following email on the evening of the 31st of October: “We are writing to advise that due to repeated incidents of unacceptable conduct involving the ‘Green Brigade’ group, the Club has suspended the season tickets of all season ticket holders who have registered with the Ticket Office as being part of this group, pending further review and communication with the group and/or the supporters in question regarding compliance with the Ground Regulations, the Rail Seating Safety Code of Conduct, and Club communications, moving forward.”
The email continued by saying: “The safety of all supporters at Celtic Park is of paramount importance and amid these serious safety concerns, this immediate action whilst regrettable, is considered by the Club to be necessary.”
The Green Brigade have since responded, saying: “In recent weeks, Celtic supporters have proudly stood in solidarity with the Palestinian people, while the PLC board adopt a position closer to the far-right British Government, with similar attempts to censor and sanction Palestinian solidarity. As the death toll in Gaza nears 10,000, including almost 4,000 children – the PLC board have shamed Celtic Football Club with their conduct.
“It is undeniable that the sanctions imposed against those affiliated with the Green Brigade are a result of the group’s unapologetic solidarity with Palestine. The sanctions applied, most notably collective bans, are evidently unfair; bereft of policy, process and communication with individuals wrongfully being punished before receiving any allegation, any evidence nor any right of defence.
“While we expect any fair-minded person will see through the flimsy litany of allegations (shamefully attempting to use fan media and national press to do bidding on their behalf) there are some which we would like to address.
“As an ultras group, known for boisterous support and creativity, we occasionally breach the assorted regulations which are in place to sterilise football stadiums. Whether it be an anti-fascist banner against Lazio or Palestine flags against Atletico Madrid, we have no regrets in by-passing stadium security checks to produce displays which are clearly welcomed by the Celtic support as well as audiences from much farther afield. We categorically deny sinister and defamatory allegations of “breaking in” and “intimidating, threatening and abusive behaviour towards staff”.
“It is laughable that “unsafe behaviour” is being alleged of the Green Brigade at Saturday’s match at Hibernian, given Celtic officials were complicit in the widely-criticised security operation on the approach to the stadium which compromised the safety of our supporters. From erecting steel pens around the standing section which were later removed in interest of supporter safety, to actively encouraging pyrotechnic use at specific fixtures as means of protest at certain domestic kick off times, senior Celtic officials have repeatedly discredited their authority in this area. In the meantime, the club have instructed us not to liaise with the Supporter Liaison Officer, ironically against UEFA’s SLO guidance.”
The ban comes a week after Celtic Park was a sea of Palestine flags as fans of the club showed their support. Hugh Keevins had his say on the flying of the flag, saying that: “The politicisation of a football club by a group who have hijacked Celtic for their own purposes needs to be resisted on behalf of the silent majority.”
If Hugh Keevins is right and a single group have hijacked Celtic for their own political motives, then why do thousands of others around the ground agree with them? The views they are supporting aren’t extreme and the people I see trying to silence them are more than happy to sing ‘Let The People Sing’ before every home game.
If we’re claiming that politics shouldn’t be part of football, why were members of the British armed forces abseiling from Ibrox at the end of September? I don’t remember Keevins having much to say then.
Let’s focus on the club themselves, and specifically whoever has claimed that other fans feel unsafe around the Green Brigade. As a Celtic fan myself and someone who regularly speaks to other fans, lots of them with different opinions and views from myself, Police Scotland have made us feel more unsafe than the Green Brigade ever could.
Let’s take our Champions League clash against Lazio for example. The police set up roadblocks and diversions that night, claiming that Lazio fans were the cause. If that was truly the case, then why were the Celtic fans made to feel like the villains?
Following on from the police issues before the match, Police Scotland also had a hand in restricting the flow of fans exiting the stadium. They responded to this, saying: “The issues of the Police vehicles in Janefield Street was noted at the time and clearly restricted the flow rate of exiting spectators. The vehicles had been involved in an external operation and unusually became located in Janefield Street east just prior to the exiting phase. The Police decision was not to attempt to move the vehicles while the pedestrian traffic was high on the grounds of safety. This did result in a slow exit for fans.”
The issues that night were so bad that the matter was raised to Celtic’s Head of Safety and Security and had to be included in the post-match debrief due to the sheer amount of complaints.
With all of the above being said, while an outright ban on an entire section of the support isn’t right, we need to take into consideration the reasons stated by Celtic. It’s not right to abuse any matchday staff who are simply at the game to do their job. Any individual in the ground, Green Brigade associate or otherwise, should be punished for such behaviour. The entire group should not.
I am certainly of the belief that the Green Brigade have been singled out for their Palestine support, as this is all too well-timed for my liking.
Let me make this very clear, I completely agree with the stance that football supporters have the right to express their political beliefs, and even though the board may not agree with this stance, they need to remember what our club was built on.
The decision to ban the Green Brigade is utterly disgraceful, and one that has caused even more divide between the fans and the board. Ultimately, football without the fans is nothing, so why are we removing a group of them from the beautiful game?