Report from Open Meeting 22/1/14

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.

  • All contributions would be heard and respected
  • The meeting agreed to a Twitter feed going out
  • After full discussion any further proposed action would be put to the meeting for decision.

The following issues were suggested for inclusion on the agenda

  • Stewarding and policing
  • The closure of Section 111
  • Club silence on crucial issues such as the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act
  • Living Wage issue
  • Dam Justice
  • Proper checks for stewards ie PVG or Enhanced Disclosure
  • European Ticket allocation
  • The Celtic Board's position on the SFA.
  • Present Board and custodians of the Club not being representative of the Support
  • Closure of the Bus Park.
  • Catering

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.

 

Stewarding and Policing

The first issue to be raised concerned the recent actions of stewards and police.  The following points were made by a number of speakers:

  • Police harassment and intimidation has intensified over the past year.
  • Celtic as a Club is complicit in cooperating with the criminalising of Celtic supporters and has endorsed this process. The claim that heavy-handed policing was at the request/knowledge of Celtic has been made on several occasions by Kenny McAskill MSP to a constituent present at the meeting and can be confirmed by others.
  • The management of stewards was called into question. It was felt that the heavy handed approach from individual stewards was ordered by the Head  of Security and his staff.
  • It is noticeable that there is a marked difference in the number of police and stewards in the Main Stand as opposed to the other stands in the ground. Why is this the case?
  •  Hypocrisy of Celtic’s stance on ‘political’ emblems and expressions. Supporters are being prevented from wearing scarves with the Green Brigade logo and from taking Irish national flags into the ground. One speaker reported being stopped from entering wearing a scarf commemorating Nelson Mandela while the Club endorsed a tribute to Mandela.
  • Searches of particularly young supporters by unauthorised personnel. How many stewards do not have PVGs or Disclosures?

 

Offensive Behaviour at Football (OB) Act

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.

 

Match at Motherwell on 6th December 2013

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 alan.cochrane2@ntlword.com

 

Political Banners and the closure of Section

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

 

Discussion of Action points

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:

  • Peter Lawwell as CEO of Celtic would be asked to respond to a number of questions on the points raised during the meeting. He will be asked to respond in writing. These questions would be posed in writing but the officers of the supporters groups were also authorised to meet with Celtic officials if this was considered to be useful.
  • A leaflet listing the concerns to be distributed to the wider support was suggested and is being considered.As previously mentioned a full report of the events at Fir Park Motherwell will be compiled.
  • It was also felt that we had allowed the press and media to dictate the agenda on matters concerning Celtic and that of course this was always going to be detrimental to our Club. It is time we started fighting back and this report could begin that process.
  • A further meeting would be held in two weeks’ time on Wednesday 5th February the business of which will be to receive the responses from Peter Lawwell and in the light of those to decide on any further action.

 

 

 

Questions

  • What is Celtic’s stance on the Offensive Behaviour at Football/Threatening Communication Act and when will they publically declare this?
  • Why has the Club been silent since the introduction of the Act given it is an issue which is causing many members of its support great concern and distress?
  •  What representations have Celtic officials made to police and government regarding the intimidation and harassment of Celtic supporters? 
  •  Have there been any changes in the guidance given to stewards since early December and what is that nature of such a change? 
  • Is it now Club policy that Green Brigade merchandise is not to be allowed into the stadium?
  • Is it now Club policy that political banners or other items are not to be allowed into the stadium for domestic league, cup and/or European games?
  • Has an officer of the club been given responsibility for deciding what constitutes a political banner/scarf etc and who is that person?
  • What checks are carried out on the suitability of persons being employed as stewards and have all of them been subject to disclosure?
  • Given published stadium regulations on searching what is Celtic’s policy re the searching of children and young people?
  • Are the Club aware that it is difficult to see the identification badge of individual stewards?
  •  Could numbers be printed across the back and front of steward’s high viz jackets?
  • Why have Celtic (either in the form of statements from the Chief Executive or from a Club spokesperson) repeatedly gone to the press with condemnation of Celtic fans without investigating the facts or attempting to speak to supporters or their organisations? Examples of this are Udinese, Dundee, Milan and Motherwell but there are others.
  •  Will the Club give a commitment to speaking to individual fans (where relevant) or supporters’ organisations prior to releasing statements critical of the Celtic support or sections of it?
  •  Why were people forced to relocate from Section 111?
  • What discussions did Celtic have with Motherwell FC following on the events of 6th December and why was there a deviation from normal practise of no publicity regarding damage to seats on that occasion? 

 

 
 

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