Published on Sunday 9th March, 2014 by Celtic Trust
4th March 2014 Celtic Club London Road
A smaller number of supporters than previously attended. This may have been due to the change in evening and this was discussed at the end of the meeting.
The meeting was jointly chaired by:
Tommy Brannigan, ( Vice-chairperson The Celtic Trust)
Eddie Toner ( Deputising for Jeanette Findlay who sent apologies.)
The meeting began with a full discussion of the statement issued a few hours earlier by Celtic FC opposing the Offensive Behaviour at Football/Threatening Communications Act and calling for an early review of this piece of discriminatory legislation
This was generally viewed as a very positive development especially given the strength of the sentiments expressed. It was something which had long been sought from the Club by FAC and the wider support.
There were some reservations regarding the timing of the release of the statement and some speakers questioned why it was not issued until after the Minister, Roseanna Cunningham, had spoken at the Justice Committee session that morning. She stated that she remains opposed to review earlier than at the end of season 2015 as she expects the group from Stirling University who have been tasked with compiling statistics and views on the legislation to report then. She did however seem to indicate that if this report was available earlier then an earlier review could take place.
It was felt that the time was right to once again take the initiative on opposing this Act and the ways of best achieving this were fully explored.
Suggestions made were as follows:
It was suggested that the best forum to plan and arrange these kinds of responses was FAC and this group will be asked to take these ideas forward as a matter of urgency.
One speaker proposed that in order to combat the police practice of arresting supporters for singing a named song a list of songs should be drawn up and approval sought for them. This suggestion gave rise to some lively debate but the suggestion did not find much support as it was pointed out that the government had consistently refused to do this and that there was a history of ‘creeping bans’ with one song after another being designated as ‘offensive’.
There was further discussion around an account of one young man who came to the meeting to report his very distressing experience at the match at Celtic Park on 1st March. While sitting in a sparsely populated part of the stadium, accompanied by his girlfriend and her brother, he had been arrested, was subsequently held for many hours, handcuffed, placed in a cell with others accused of violence, and charged with singing a song. He stated that he was not singing but that there was a large group behind and above their seats who were singing and it appears that the police were not willing to tackle a group so arrested the ‘easy target’.
Another speaker highlighted the unprofessional and unhelpful response of stewards when he had cause to complain about his treatment and he intends to make a formal complaint about this. Once again the difficulty in identifying stewards who refused to provide any identification was highlighted and this despite Celtic’s assurance that every Steward’s Jacket would have a visible identification badge.
Overall the feeling was that Celtic, despite their many assertions to the contrary, are not doing enough to protect their paying customers from the excesses of both police and stewards One speaker felt that while we need to actively seek the review and repeal of the Act, we must also highlight the human cost which mainly young supporters are paying by being criminalised merely for singing a song.
The discussion moved on to other action points decided at the last meeting. These included
Celtic has a member of staff designated as a ‘safeguarder ‘ but this needs to be communicated much more widelySince the last meeting a Supporters Forum had been convened by Celtic through the SLO John Paul Taylor. Although all other fans groups were invited along with website coordinators, bloggers, and some individual season book holders the Green Brigade had been excluded. The feeling of the meeting was that this was not acceptable and there was some doubt cast on how representative of the Celtic support this Forum would prove to be.There was some discussion of the state of communication between the Club and the GB and once again there were conflicting views about channels of communication. The chairperson of the CSA had offered his services as a mediator but it appears that neither side had yet taken up that offer. The GB members who were present said that they were open to dialogue and would respond to any contact from the SLO. Once again there will be an attempt to open up these channels of communication.
Date of Next Meeting
The meeting ended with discussion around the date of the next meeting. The day had been changed from Wednesday to Tuesday because that Wednesday was Ash Wednesday. It was felt that the drop in numbers attending may well have been due to this change so the next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday 2nd April 2014 at 7pm in the Celtic Club.
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