This is the result, they say, of an internal review.
Actually, it’s the result of pressure and the only sort that matters, the sort that actually works. It’s pressure from the fans.
Celtic supporters are the best in the world and part of what makes this club great is that the history forms so much of the psychology of each and every one of us. We’ve grown up to feel connected to the plight of the underdog. Many of us come from political backgrounds, mostly on the left. A lot of us were and are trade unionists and socialists, but even those who don’t fit into those slots are proud of the history and our traditions and honour them.
There are exceptions, but for the most part this stands.
This has been a fine season for our supporters, regardless of what some of the more febrile minds in the media, and at Ibrox, would have you believe.
Earlier this season, a group of our fans turned a game against a team from Israel into a political statement on the plight of the Palestinians. It’s a cause I believe in passionately, but I felt their gesture would be futile and costly for us. I was wrong and delighted to be. Not only did people sit up and take notice but the guys wedded the protest with a magnificent gesture; they would match any UEFA fine with a donation to the people over there.
The fine we eventually got was notable for being £5,000 less than the one they levelled on the club for a single Palestinian banner a couple of years ago. It totalled £10,000. The fans raised more than ten times that. The club never bothered to submit an appeal, but it wouldn’t have mattered. The fans gesture was the one that caught the imagination of the world, and it resonated far outside Celtic Park. It drew praise from the media, from celebrities, from human rights organisations and even governments.
With that campaign, a little of our soul came home.
Today’s announcement restores another piece of it, one that many of us felt had been lost in two years of battles over this issue. This is a victory for those who never let this matter die, in particular those at The Celtic Trust who vowed to raise it over and over again.
They deserve enormous credit for getting the club to see sense and do the right thing.
I understand that our club has to be run right, but this seemed parsimonious at best when other clubs in Scotland were able to afford it.
Yes, we are bigger than they are and with more staff on the books, but it seemed like penny pinching and unreasonable just the same and on top of that I got the impression we didn’t want to seem like we’d done it under pressure. Even when this argument was clearly won and lost, it seemed to me that the club resisted because some of that pressure had come from outside. If that’s the case then it was just plain daft.
I don’t want to get critical; this is a good announcement and a good day for everyone at Celtic. But without the fans and the campaign for this I wonder if we’d ever have got here. I’ve said before that directors, players and managers come and go … the fans are what remain and they are the only ones who truly hand this club down through the generations.
This announcement is theirs. It’s their victory.
Celtic fans do more than just support the team; we keep the people running our club honest and straight and grounded.
We fight for its very soul.
Congratulations to all of us today, but in particular those who held this torch high and never let it flicker out.
Be proud of yourselves for it. You’ve done something fine.