Celtic were today fined, by UEFA, as a consequence of a small group of fans who seem intent on harming our club in the name of having a good time. They let of flares during the Europa League tie with Fenerbahce, knowing full well the possible costs of it.
This website regularly speaks out in support of those being persecuted for singing certain songs; that’s a free speech issue and one that goes well beyond what happens in a football stadium, and impacts on the rights every one of us enjoy.
That’s a controversial position to take, but it’s a complex issue which on one hand is about personal expression, unchecked by regulations or law, and on the other about the potential for giving grave offence or even sparking disorder. You understand the other side of that debate even if you fundamentally do not agree with it.
Here, there is no grey area. There is no complexity. This one is fairly straightforward.
Flares and pyrotechnics are dangerous. They are banned at football grounds in almost every European country. UEFA regards their use by supporters as a serious violation of its health and safety statutes. Even bringing them into a stadium is a criminal offence in the UK. There’s nothing controversial about any of this; it’s almost universally accepted and understood.
For a small number of our fans none of that matters. Only their own “enjoyment” does. They are reckless, stupid and selfish. Their conduct will result in serious sanctions being handed out to our club, and that will have consequences lasting years.
The rest of our support will suffer. The clubs reputation, hard won over a decade or more, when we were winning awards from the game’s governing bodies instead of drawing sanctions from them, will be ruined and will take a generation to restore.
It has to stop. It has to end.
For the good of all, this kind of thing has to be put to bed.
Celtic fans once turned the city of Seville green and white. Those who say “no pyro no party” – one of the stupidest justifications ever, by the way – can’t be ignorant of the fact that no-one there needed a flare to have a rare old time. Equally, our supporters would never have won UEFA and FIFA’s prestigious Fair Play awards if they had.
And there’s another consequence these people appear not to have considered.
The Offensive Behaviour at Football Act is an appalling piece of legislation which many in the Celtic support and the wider community are working tirelessly to have repealed.
The merits of their argument are incontrovertible. It is an assault on freedom, incredibly restrictive and too open to the interpretation of individual police officers and even judges. If it ends up in the European Court, as it eventually must, it will certainly be stricken down.
No matter how well argued the opposition to this Bill, no matter how far down the line towards winning the battle for public opinion on this issue – the one thing, short of an ECHR verdict which will put this Act in the bin – all of it is undone every time someone let’s off a smoke-bomb in the crowd at a match.
Those on the other side of this debate can point their fingers and sneer at us all, putting “all the animals in a single cage” whether deserved or not.
The utter selfishness required from anyone who takes a flare or a smoke bomb into a football match and uses it is hard to properly quantify.
If they keep it up they will do serious damage to Celtic, and force the club to come after them.
One measure open to Celtic is to bill them for the financial costs, and most fans would support the club in taking such a stand. Furthermore, the club will impose football banning orders to make sure these people can never set foot in a stadium again. Criminal charges will probably follow on from that, as surely as night follows on from day, and if the club co-operated with police there would be barely a tremor of discontent amongst the fans.
The consequences to Celtic will be severe, regardless.
It’s time these people got a grip and stopped acting out like five year old kids who can’t get all the sweeties in the shop.