Published on Saturday 25th January, 2014 by Celtic Trust
The meeting, open to all Celtic supporters, was convened by the Celtic Trust and in the absence of the Trust Chairperson who is abroad, it was jointly chaired by Jeanette Findlay, immediate past Chairperson, and Tommy Brannigan Vice-Chairperson of the Trust. An estimated 250 Celtic fans attended the meeting including those who are members of one of the supporters’ organisations and those who do not.
Jeanette opened by welcoming all present and setting out the parameters for the conduct of the meeting ie that some issues had already been suggested but participants would be given the opportunity to raise any further relevant issues
Everyone who wished to do so would be given the opportunity to speak but this would be done in an orderly manner and through the chair.
The following issues were suggested for inclusion on the agenda
It was accepted that it would not be possible to cover all issues at this meeting and that some of the issues raised although important would be better dealt with through the existing supporters’ organisations’ links to the appropriate responsible personnel within Celtic.
The tone of the meeting was immediately set by Eddie Toner who had brought to the meeting the Fair Play Trophy awarded to the Celtic Support by FIFA in 2003. Eddie recalled how, as the then General Secretary of the Celtic Supporters’ Association, he had received this award at FIFA World Player Awards in Switzerland on behalf of Celtic supporters in recognition of the magnificent way they had supported the team all the way to Seville where over 80,000 people had congregated for the final match and had behaved impeccably throughout. Eddie reminded those present that ten years later nothing has changed. We are still the same support welcomed and praised throughout Europe. It is only in this country that things are different and that reflects the bias in Scotland and within Scottish society.
What follows is an attempt to summarise a number of contributions to give a flavour of the meeting and is not meant to be a verbatim account.
The first issue to be raised concerned the recent actions of stewards and police. The following points were made by a number of speakers:
It was felt that much of the above stems directly from this Act. Through this legislation individual police officers now feel able to harass and even arrest supporters for a range of activities which would be perfectly acceptable in any context other than a football match. As previously mentioned stewards are also being used to implement this piece of unjust and discriminatory legislation.
Although Celtic have said privately to representatives of supporter organisations that they have and do oppose the Act they have not stated this position publically despite being urged to do so on many occasions. When an early review of the Act was recently before the Justice Committee at Holyrood the Club were asked to make a statement, or to contact the Justice Committee, supporting this but they declined to do soThe Supporter Liaison Officer also told a group of supporters that the Club intended issuing a statement at this time. This has not been forthcoming strengthening the widespread belief that far from opposing the Club is actually collaborating with the police and authorities in implementing the Act and so criminalising its own support. The Chair indicated that at a meeting between the Trust and officials from Celtic, theCEO and the then Company Secretary statedthat the Club were not aware that legislation was being planned until late summer 2011 but minutes of deliberations at Holyrood reveal that not only did Celtic officials know about the plans by at least early June, they were actively involved in supporting them.
One speaker also highlighted how quick Peter Lawwell was to condemn Celtic fans often without any basis in fact. Is this to curry favour with a press and media who are never going to be on Celtic’s side whatever happens?
Another speaker made reference to the enormous power now wielded by the Chief Constable of Police Scotland Stephen House. It would appear that the Scottish Government has abrogated its responsibility and allowed this man free rein to do as he pleases.
All of this needs to be challenged.
The aftermath of this event has been widely reported in the press and media and several speakers regretted the fact that some Celtic supporters are still willing to believe everything they read in the tabloid press which is noted for their anti-Celtic slant. Several speakers spoke about their experiences at that match. Fans were denied access to the areas for which they had tickets and were herded into other areas of the stands. Aggressive behaviour from police and stewards and heavy presence of both was evident before and after the game but when flares were thrown and seats broken there were no police or stewards present. It is generally accepted that seats are damaged at many grounds but that the practice has been for Clubs not to publicise this but sort it out internally and between themselves as Celtic and Aberdeen had done after many seats at the section housing Aberdeen supporters had been damaged on 23rd November. One speaker said that Motherwell FC expected this to happen in this case but that Celtic had insisted on going public. It was felt that this was one more example of Celtic targeting our own support and that they had a definite motive for doing so ie the closure of Section 111 and the demonising of the Green Brigade.
After the match Celtic suspended the Season Books of 128 supporters including some members of the Green Brigade who were widely blamed for the trouble. However the letters giving notice of suspension could only cite the fact that the recipient had not been seated on the seat noted on the ticket held. That these supporters were suspended was widely reported on the Celtic website and in the press but when the suspensions were quickly rescinded no such reports appeared. It was decided to compile a report of incidents which people experienced or saw on that night with as much detail as possible along the lines of the reports drawn up after the kettlling by police in the Gallowgate in March and the more recent incidents in Amsterdam. Anyone who has any relevant information on this is urged to contact Alan Cochrane at email@example.com
The banners which had been shown at the both the games on 23rd November and that vs AC Milan on 26th November came about because a section of the Celtic support were being harassed, and arrested from their homes, sometimes in the early morning, for nothing more than singing a song.
As these actions were obviously politically motivated and given that Celtic had not denounced them as promised, the Green Brigade felt that they were justified in using these banners to draw attention to the intimidation being experienced by Celtic fans.
The speed with which Celtic accepted the UEFA ruling and fine and moved to close Section 111 troubled many fans. They felt that Celtic had ample grounds to highlight UEFA’s inconsistent and hypocritical response to similar situations in other countries. It was also doubly ironic that while fining Celtic because our fans displayed a banner portraying two freedom fighters UEFA issued a decree that Nelson Mandela also a freedom fighter had to be honoured at all European matches that same week.
Those seated in Section 111 received letters saying that the section was being closed and offering either relocation or a refund of the unexpired portion of their season tickets. Supporters seeking an explanation are still awaiting replies.
The statement issued by the Club on 9th December is very misleading and has never been corrected. Police Scotland have now arrested a number of young persons all from the same area in Lanarkshire but this is apparently in connection with disorder after the game at Fir Park. While it is unclear if these young people are actually Celtic fans what is certain is that no member of the Green Brigade has been arrested regarding this yet the Club have punished this group for the sins of others.
As the time was wearing on brief reports were given on some topics (Amsterdam, Living Wage, FAC) while it was decided to remit others to the next meeting so that there would be time to discuss strategies for the future action
There was considerable support for a boycott of both away and home games and much discussion around this. Those in favour felt that the only way to highlight the harassment and intimidation of supporters using the OBF/Act was to hit Clubs where it hurt ie in the pocket. Since many Clubs now rely solely on the two matches against Celtic for a large part of their income it was felt that losing this would encourage their officials to lobby the Government for a review of this legislation. It was also felt that regrettably this was the only language the Board of Celtic plc also know. Some speakers drew attention to what was termed the existing unofficial boycott evidenced by the many empty seats at Celtic Park not only in the section of the upper Lisbon Lions stand but also those who are just not using season tickets and are unlikely to renew them for next year. It was felt that there was a window of opportunity between now and the season ticket renewal date to make our points.
The possibility of holding one or more demonstrations outside Celtic Park was also discussed and found favour with many.
Others at the meeting felt that while they would support such boycotts in the long term there were steps which could be taken prior to this action and which would give the Club time to respond to and hopefully address the expressed concerns of supporters. After full discussion the following was agreed:
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