The news that two Croatian fans were stabbed last night after running battles with Sevco fans is horrifying, but not exactly a galloping shock to those of us who’ve been warning of this kind of violence involving them for a while. When black-clad fans are allowed to march in paramilitary style formation to a game, having promoted the event with a sectarian leaflet showing a man in green being kicked in the head, this kind of thing is almost inevitable.
No-one had died here. For that, at least, we ought to be grateful but the Peepul responsible clearly wouldn’t have cared if someone had. The impression that this is a club out of control grows daily. Their supporters think they have license to break the law and cause trouble with impunity, and why not? The example comes from the very top of the house.
If you are looking to apportion blame for this you need to look further than just those who thought taking knives to a football match and then using them on rival fans was no big thing. The ripples of this extend in every direction.
There is enough blame to go around.
Some, at least, belongs to the media who has fed a general sense of entitlement amongst these supporters and helped them nurse a sense of grievance which is coming home to roost. No matter how much the hacks may lament this assertion, they have been a contributing factor in letting these supporters wallow in this nonsense for so long.
Civic Scotland bears a certain amount of responsibility too. It has sat in silence as the behaviour of people at Ibrox has become increasingly bizarre and even dangerous. They ought to have been outraged by the Union Bears fascistic march through our streets, but they allowed it to pass without comment far less outcry. The club endorses these supporters, and Civic Scotland could have urged them to make a clean break with them over that.
Police Scotland have a lot to answer for too. Whilst one segment of their organisation is busy photographing Celtic fans doing nothing more dramatic than following our club, the organisation as a whole allowed the Union Bears march when the threat of violence was clearly in the air. In spite of the scandalous behaviour of their fans at the weekend the lack of officers visible in last night’s footage is something for which they will shortly have to answer.
The standard tactic in these circumstances is to point the finger elsewhere, but when the Green Brigade has crossed the very clear lines which the club itself drew for them, there have been consequences. No-one can say Celtic does not take its responsibilities seriously, because they do and they are not afraid to upset large sections of the fan-base when they feel they have to act. I cannot conceive of circumstances where any fan group linked to us would have produced a leaflet like the one put out by the Union Bears and Celtic allowed those same fans into the stadium. It simply would not have happened, and Civic Scotland would have slated us if it did.
Any attempt to find a moral equivalence here – or a “two sides of the same coin” narrative – is futile and cowardly. Last night’s violence has to be called what it is, an aberrance, the province of a single Scottish club, who own the event and the aftermath completely. The Evening Times tonight refers to them as “Scottish fans”; that is a diabolical smear-job on the whole country for the sake of sparing a select few, followers of one specific team.
That is a disgrace. To refuse to confront this only encourages those involved.
But ultimately, the real responsibility lies with the club itself which has encouraged the worst elements of its support with paranoid statements, nudges and winks towards conspiracy theories and preached the language of hate so long and so loud that it’s all many of their fans can hear. Their gross irresponsibility, the need to pander to their worst elements, has directly led to this appalling event and we should not be scared to say that out loud.
This club, that is so fond of making statements, has not even issued one condemning last night’s atrocious scenes. It’s almost as if they believe not to mention it would somehow make it go away, as though it had never happened. This wish is not confined to them; aside from The Times trying to make this all of Scotland’s problem, another national newspaper relegated the story to page 7, as if that, too, would airbrush it out of the history books.
This is not going away. The problem needs to tackled, and that means the club itself needs to be held accountable for this kind of behaviour. Last night, even before kick-off, The Rangers Standard, a website allegedly run by someone on the payroll of the club itself, was tweeting its latest conspiracy theory about the presence of Football Against Racism In Europe in their ground, and so what was ostensibly a tweet to remind fans to behave was actually pushing the nonsensical idea that FARE, a UEFA accredited organisation who’s job it is to monitor the behaviour of supporters, was actually there on some kind of anti-Sevco crusade.
And this is the mood that permeates every corner of Ibrox, and until that changes the club’s supporters will represent a clear and present danger to those of any side they face, and it’s that simple.
A lot has been made of the decision Celtic made to confirm that Sevco fans will have their allocation to our ground cut to a mere 800; today that looks like nothing but good sense, nothing but a wise and appropriate measure, because to have any more of them there would be a risk to our own supporters.
That is a dreadful statement to have to write, but I believe it to be true and it will be until the section of their fan-base which thinks it has license to run amock is confronted by the only people who can really make a difference; those inside Sevco itself.
And every single person reading this knows they won’t.