Supporter Clubs, Tours Bring the Celtic Experience to North America

There’s no escaping Celtic — even if you wanted to (like that would ever happen!) The spirit of the Bhoys is just about anywhere you travel in this great big world.

With an estimated nine million global fans, the reach of Celtic nation extends far beyond the gates of Parkhead and the 60,411 who fit inside on match day.

In fact, some of Celtic’s most faithful supporters are an ocean away in the US and Canada. Let’s take a look at how Scotland’s finest footballers get love in North America.

North Americans Band Together in Supporter Clubs

Celtic’s reach into North America is well established. The club counts over a million fans in the US and Canada, many of whom practice their affinity for the Bhoys by watching matches with supporter clubs.

The US alone boasts 80 supporters clubs ranging from New York to Hawaii. There’s a Celtic Supporter Club in nearly half of the country’s 50 states. The North American Federation of Celtic Supporters Clubs (www.nafcsc.com) directory indicates there are 19 more clubs in Canada.

The North American legion of fans doesn’t go unnoticed. Former Rangers director Hugh Adam claimed that Celtic are the best-supported football club in North America.

A 2004 feature by The Sunday Times found that, while clubs such as Chelsea, Man United, and Real Madrid drew huge crowds when touring the US, Celtic held the most impressive consistent fan base in the nation.

North American Tours Energize Fans Abroad

Celtic have skipped across the pond a number of times throughout the decades to show North Americans what winning football looks like. These junkets have been instrumental in building the club’s support base abroad.  

The Bhoys’ first visit to the US commenced with the club landing in New York City aboard the SS Caledonia on 22 May 1931. A gathering of several hundred Scottish and Irish expats gathered to welcome their favorite side and see the Scottish Cup up close.

Photograph taken in Detroit while on their visit to play Michigan all Stars who they beat 5-0 at the University of Detroit Stadium. While in the city they were given a tour of the famous Ford Motor Works. L – R: Willie Cook, Bobby Whitelaw, Hugh Smith, Joe McGhee, Willie Maley, Bertie Thomson, Johnny Thomson, Jimmy McGrory (with cup) Peter Scarff, Charlie Napier, Peter Wilson, Tom Maley, Denis Currie, Willie McGonagle.

Celtic stuck around through June for a 13-game traveling friendly series against local American and Canadian clubs. The Bhoys dominated most opponents, going 9-3-1 in the stretch. 

Celtic returned to North America at least seven more times by the close of the 20th century. 

It’s hard to believe to Celtic’s most recent multi-match trek across the pond was already a decade ago. The Bhoys once again ventured across the pond ahead of the Scottish Premiership season in July 2010. 

Celtic took opened the tour by dropping a hard fought-battle to the Philadelphia Union of the MLS 0-1 at the Union’s home venue in Philadelphia on 14 July. 

A much-anticipated clash against Man United was staged at the sprawling Rogers Centre in Toronto on 16 July. Again, Celtic came up short as United snuck away with a 3-1 win. 

The tide turned on 18 July as the Bhoys defeated the MLS squad Seattle Sounders 2-1 at Qwest Field, the latter’s pitch in Seattle.

The capstone of the tour occurred on 22 July at Boston’s Fenway Park for a match against Sporting Lisbon of Portugal’s Primeira Liga. 

The occasion marked a rare football event at one of America’s most iconic sporting venues. Founded in 1908, Fenway Park is the home of the Boston Red Sox and the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball (MLB). Games held there regularly fill to capacity with 38,000 spectators and draw attention at US sportsbooks with MLB betting. Celtic pulled away from the 1-1 regulation deadlock with a 6-5 win on penalty kicks.

American Celebs Are Fans Too

Celtic fever also extends to celebrities. We all know Rod Stewart is a passionate supporter and Jim Kerr once spearheaded a bid to purchase the club. 

What’s less publicized are the North American entertainers who cheer on the Bhoys. The diverse list runs from rapper/actors like Snoop Dogg to singers such as Lana Del Rey to Hollywood’s biggest stars—we’re looking at you Robert Downey Jr.  

Jay-Z has been known to step out wearing a Celtic scarf. Coolio attended a home match in 2017.

It turns out the story is the same everywhere in the world—Celtic fans are united across cultures, countries, economic status by a love for the 51-time Scottish champions.

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About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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