Someone asked me just the other week if I was going to do an article on the annual embarrassment of Armed Forces Day at Ibrox. I said, “yes, of course,” and then promptly forgot about it, but a thread on a Sevco fan forum reminded me.
The cognitive dissonance required to be a Sevco fan must be incredible at times. To them we are “the fans who support terrorists.” We are disloyal and hate the British state. We are not patriotic except about Ireland. There is undoubtedly a section of the Celtic support which is Irish, hates the British state and supporters the Republican struggle … but I find the criticism curious coming from them … especially them.
Their support frequently extols the virtues of Loyalist murder gangs.
They are disloyal to the British state in that they see no harm in their previous football club ducking out of its tax responsibilities, which undoubtedly cost the state itself. They would have continued with that tax scam right up to the present day had HMRC not tumbled across it looking for evidence of another fraud.
And they can lecture us about patriotism only when many of them cease being embracers of an uber-Englishness which manifests itself in a hatred of the land they were born.
It’s this uber-Englishness that intrigues me most about them, that and the fact the version of it so many embrace is a hard-right version, with its roots in Nazi Germany.
Indeed, there’s a picture doing the rounds from this Armed Forces Day at Ibrox which seems to show a bunch of people making the Nazi salute. Now, I know it’s not that … but it could have been, it wouldn’t have surprised me or other keen observers, because of course they’ve done it before, because all those circles – Loyalism, far-right politics, embrace of militarism – intersect and fascist ideologues have found many friends in their orbit.
The whole spectacle of Armed Forces Day at Ibrox puts everyone involved on seriously shaky ground.
For one thing, it’s not a sombre occasion by any manner of means; it’s all jollied up with bands and abseiling from the Ibrox roof … frankly, it’s an embarrassment, a sheer spectacle which brings zero credit to either the army or the club.
The soldiers – who the average Ibrox fan couldn’t give a toss about – are relegated to the level of mascots on one hand and performing seals on the other. It makes the club look absolutely ridiculous too, limiting its appeal to the vast swathes of the populace who appreciate military service but hate the jingoistic promotion of it.
Sevco is a true example of an organisation run on the basis only of an appeal to the “core customer.”
The idea that they will ever get over this and start to think about how they bring new fans to their club is patently ridiculous; they pander so much to one specific strand that it’s a waste of their time even trying to be more than they are.
The damage this does to them is almost impossible to quantify.
And if possible, that’s even truer of the army itself, and especially in Scotland. Who thought it would be a good idea to tie military service in Scotland with one specific football club? Who in their right mind, in the ranks of the army, thought that was something with a happy ending? If I object to any part of it it’s that element, that the armed services are seen, by many people now, as inexorably tied to Ibrox. That has consequences far beyond football.
It astounds me that this still goes on.
If Sevco wants to celebrate militarism and the glorification of war they are, of course, perfectly entitled to do so, and on their own heads be it, but the top brass who allow serving soldiers to take part in the affair need to have a serious think about the image they are presenting.
They are tying their reputations to that club … they may think that’s a good idea but history has shown that it’s not. This has gone beyond poppies and a cynical exploitation of the armed services to suit the club’s own ends … this is morphing into something ideological and dangerous.
Those who say they want politics removed from the football stadiums are kidding themselves as long as this is going on without them uttering a word in opposition. Ibrox is being turned into an army recruiting office, and that would be their own lookout if I didn’t know that the kids who sign up today are going to be very busy tomorrow, and not sitting comfortably in German barracks sipping tea and waiting for the big red bear to wander out of the woods.
The future for these kids may well end up being huddled under fire on the Korean Peninsula.
The club itself is desperate for affirmation, and will take it wherever they can get it. The army is desperate for the next generation of kids willing to load themselves into the breach … a lot of that generation knows exactly what the future might hold for those in uniform and it will make Iraq and Afghanistan look like Sunday afternoon in front of the telly. So in some ways this is a win-win scenario … except a lot of the starry-eyed youngsters who grow up wanting to abseil from the Broomloan Road stand won’t fully grasp what they’re signing up for.
The whole thing is ridiculous, and the underlying atmosphere which has promoted this stuff at that ground is patently unhealthy. The media loves it, of course.
But it’s a disaster waiting to happen. It will eventually bring disgrace to both organisations. There’s just no avoiding it. The mix is too potent, and those who’re pouring it in have given no thought at all as to how it’s going to end.