There has been plenty of debate about Celtic’s standing section that houses the Green Brigade Ultra group. With sanctions announced yesterday by Celtic Football Club, this is the Green Brigade response.
“As an ultras group, it is inevitable that we will occasionally court controversy or conflict be that through our style of support or indeed our political identity. In spite of this, for over ten years we have maintained a reasonable working relationship with the Club which usually manifests itself by way of regular meetings.
“Unfortunately, this relationship broke down early in the season when we had the audacity to criticise the Celtic Board for a lack of investment. Although engagement has remained, it has been largely futile and undermined by a breakdown of trust.
“Throughout our near 15-season existence, we have always accepted responsibility for our actions and ramifications where justified and proportionate. We know that the use of pyrotechnics may bring consequences therefore accept the inevitable sanctions for using it.
“We regret that any fans outside of our membership should suffer those consequences and point to that being disproportionate and unnecessary.
“To implement sanctions at 3 days’ notice highlights a blatant disregard for the considerable expense and arrangements some fans undertake to support Celtic.
“Considering we met with the Club last week to discuss potential sanctions specifically against our Group, the timing and scope of this decision is particularly vindictive. That it comes 2 days before an AGM expected to skirt by fan-led issues like ‘Resolution 12’ serves further cynicism as to its motives.
“We appreciate that pyrotechnics run the risk of drawing the ire of footballing authorities. There are varied views among the Celtic support on its use however it is undeniable that such displays of passion in the stands remain incredibly popular with significant swathes of Celtic supporters, whilst it’s safe use is common across the footballing world.
“Pyrotechnics within football, and even at Celtic, predates the Green Brigade. It would be naive to assume that it can simply be eradicated and instead, the mature, progressive approach would be for football clubs and authorities to properly engage with fans to promote safe use.
“On the select occasions we opt to use pyro, we do so with total regard for safety and seek to limit risk as much as possible.
“Since the inception of Safe Standing in Celtic Park, our communications with the Club have been dominated by Health & Safety concerns which we have, and remain, committed to trying to mitigate.
“Without covering old ground, we have done as much as is within our power to help combat overcrowding within our area. Ultimately though, fans’ migrating to this area never has been – nor will it ever be – the fault of those who legitimately occupy the area.
“It is completely unreasonable for the Club to sanction fans within Safe Standing for their own failure to manage this issue: one which only exists at around 5 fixtures per season. Conveniently, the Club statement only very briefly mentions this issue – framed around a UEFA fine narrative – despite assuring us it is the primary factor behind sanctions.
“As with overcrowding, punishing fans for the latest UEFA fine is unfair. Whilst tens of thousands partook in the offending chant, we are happy to accept responsibility for leading the ‘f*** Lazio’ chorus and make no apologies for displaying the same message in their native tongue.
“Politics aside, football is a tribal sport and to sanitise the game to the extent that cursing the opposition is in breach of regulations only renders said regulations – and the body enforcing them – not fit for purpose.
“More importantly, we are a proudly anti-racist group who took a stand against one of the most notoriously fascist supports in world football. That stand culminated in £16,000 being raised for two refugee charities between Rome and Glasgow – an appeal which perfectly showcased the Celtic support and is certainly more newsworthy than football supporters swearing.
“The Club often purport to be a club like no other, a slogan modelled on Barcelona. Unlike their Catalonian counterparts though, the Celtic board would rather shirk from the traditions of Celtic instead of following their example in challenging unethical regulations and sanctions.
“The oldest Celtic tradition of all is charity and the Celtic support united on Saturday to once again produce the largest single collection for foodbanks in this country, as they do annually. It is a shame that this should be overshadowed by the Club sowing seeds of division.
“As the team strives for a historic 9 – and then 10 – in a row, we would rather not be engaged in this negative narrative.
“Our aim, as always, is to positively support Celtic and following Thursday we hope to get back to that.
“However, omitted from the Club statement is the fact that all Green Brigade tickets for all upcoming fixtures are being withheld until further notice – including the upcoming League Cup Final and potentially as far as to the Glasgow Derby at the end of the year.
“We hope that the Club will reconsider this position and re-engage with fans in a meaningful manner.
“Until The Last Rebel.”
With so much good happening on the park, nobody needs these distractions going on. There is clearly a need for more dialogue between club and group. If Celtic fans are famous worldwide for something it is the atmosphere inside the stadium on a European night.
Sections of the ground been closed on Thursday night will help nobody, especially the team. Although Celtic have already won the right to play European football into the new year Neil Lennon is still keen to top their group.
From this latest GB statement, it looks like the punishment the board reported yesterday is to be a lot more severe. Some people from the group have had tickets withheld too for the upcoming final at Hampden.
According to the statement, the relationship between the group and club has deteriorated after the group criticised the board for not spending during the summer. In fairness, most fans hit the panic button in the summer transfer window.
The board left their dealings late which caused a bit of panic but in hindsight, it has turned out to be one of the better transfer windows. Unless the trust is restored in some way between the board and the members of the standing section this already weakened relationship will worsen.