I’ve spoken many times on this site about the way Sevco fans focus on small stuff rather on the big questions which face them as a club. You will not find many of them who would agree with my characterisation of the matter I’m about to discuss as fitting the term “small stuff.”
To them, this is a matter of the utmost seriousness.
And that should scare their board.
The issue at play is how many tickets our fans get for their ground.
This one has been bubbling away for a while.
This weekend it has erupted.
Don’t underestimate the small stuff. What seems to you and me like something that means nothing can look, to someone else, like something of the gravest import. Ask George Osbourne; back in 2012, he passed a measure in his budget that seemed like one of the minor matters. It would have levied VAT on food bought in take-out places, much as it is levied on food you eat in a restaurant or bar. It hadn’t dawned on him how many people enjoy steak-bakes.
The press christened it “the pasty tax.” And it sparked nearly universal anger amongst the public, and caused major ructions at every level of the Tory Party. Remember, these are the heartless swine who have no issue taking money from poor working families and whose members would cheerfully vote in favour of taking food from the mouths of children. Yet this outraged them. And they forced Cameron into a humiliating U-turn.
Small stuff sometimes hits home.
And in the case of our 7000 tickets for Ibrox and ownership, on those visits, of the whole of the Broomloan Road stand, a lot of the Peepul have become manic. It has a lot to do with the gloating of our fans. Four times in a row now we’ve gone there and lorded it up. Four times we’ve celebrated everything that puts us in front of them. But this issue actually precedes these visits; it goes back to the era of Rangers. It goes back a long way.
Similar measures have been discussed by Celtic fans. Every year the Association debates the allocation we give them and when stuff happens such as them trashing our toilets there’s a renewed interest in cutting it back to nearly zero.
But it does not inspire fanaticism like it does over there. One of the primary reasons Union Bears marched in their fascist formation this weekend was to draw attention to the perceived injustice of being turfed out of their seats to accommodate our fans. Had they chosen to make that point like civilised human beings they might have won more support within the ranks of their fans.
But the cause itself does have widespread appeal for a fan base which is desperate to punish us for our success. Some of the stuff on their forums where this is discussed is quite bonkers; they actually think we get a “sporting advantage” from it. They compare it with the small allocation other clubs get. Four of those clubs have beaten them in this campaign in spite of it.
The trouble is, not only has this issue gotten its claws into their fans and become a serious bone of contention between them and the board, but the manner of our club’s celebrations at the weekend means that it’s one they want resolved by next season. They have already launched a mass email campaign, and have held meetings on the issue. The Union Bears march was in part a protest against their own club. A leafleting campaign is planned.
It’s getting big. It’s getting to the point where the club will have to treat it seriously, but as they’re unlikely to actually give these Peepul what they want that won’t be enough.
Their fans know this issue is about money – the board has admitted that – so there’s talk that withholding money might be a way to confront their directors with a difficult choice.
That idea does not have widespread support … yet. But the mood in the Ibrox stands is horrendous right now and this one has the potential to blossom, especially if it gets rolled up in the general feeling of anger at the board. The trouble is that this can’t be viewed in isolation; to a lot of their fans it’s another symbol of an epic disconnect which exists between them and the people who are running the club. And they are partly right, of course.
They’ve grasped that this board has no interest in their opinions, only in their money. King has talked a good game, and raised their expectations, and he speaks the language of the sectarian simpleton very well when that’s required … but I’ve always believed he has the same contempt for them that he has for everyone else.
Their fans sense this, even if it’s not vocalised or even fully sunk in yet. This issue might seem like a matter of little consequence, but it has the potential to really snowball. Their supporters are thoroughly sick and tired of seeing ours treat their ground like it was their own and the sight of our players celebrating in front of them on Sunday was the final straw for many of them. This issue is massive to them. It is a real wedge between them and their club.
Celtic has handled this matter with their typical pragmatism; they know that for every Celtic fan who would ban them from Parkhead completely there’s another who wants the right to go to Ibrox, but they also have long memories. They know Celtic fans were once banned from that stadium, and they have made the Sevco board well aware of the consequences should we lose part of our allocation for their ground. Retaliation would be automatic.
The simpler truth is that this issue doesn’t animate our fans like it does theirs. Aside from us not looking for excuses on match-days (because we usually win them!) we have a bigger stadium than they do, and we can usually accommodate our supporters without much inconvenience. There are 10,000 less seats at their ground and it’s much harder to do.
Try explaining that reality to them. They don’t want to hear it. Instead this is proof that their board are “in league” with Celtic on the issue instead of both sides simply realising that the current arrangement, whilst not exactly satisfactory, is at least tolerable.
But the longer our run of success goes on the less tolerable it is over there. These Peepul are spoiling for a fight, and some of them have decided that fight is with their own club. The longer we are lording it over them the more doubts will sweep their support and this issue will morph into a much bigger problem, combined as it’ll be with other concerns.
Yeah, it’s small stuff to the likes of us, but don’t underestimate the small stuff.
The depth of feeling on this has to be sampled to be believed; it generates more heat than you can possibly imagine. This is a deal-breaker for a lot of their fans … and that number is growing and so is the trouble that goes with it. This one is definitely one to watch.
You can also follow us on Twitter at @The_Celtic_Blog