When I read our club’s statement on the situation in Janefield Street yesterday, my first reaction was to be glad that they had gotten out in front of the issue so swiftly. An investigation was being launched into the events. As I received emails detailing stories about the incident I grew more and more disquieted over that. As I read online accounts, many describing the situation as the worst thing they have ever experienced in football, I knew that wouldn’t do.
I spent a few days last week musing on responsibility; I was focussed on the roles certain people play at our club. For some reason, my consciousness was nagged over and over again by a book; Ian Banks novel Complicity, where an Edinburgh journalist investigates a series of murders being carried out by an unknown individual. When the killer is revealed the unmasking is not nearly so interesting as the rationale behind the crimes.
The killer believes that certain professions convey so much authority and responsibility for the lives and wellbeing of others to those at the top of them that failure to properly discharge those duties – either by laziness, lack of attention to detail or outright incompetence – should be regarded as a sin which is at least the equal of wilfully doing harm.
By that rule, a politician who votes for an illegal war on bad information is the same as a dictator who starts one for malevolent ambition; a doctor who administers the wrong drug to a patient is as complicit if that patient dies as if he or she were a murderer; a bureaucrat who sees people as an abstraction and shuffles them into situations which cause them harm is as bad as a concentration camp guard who herds them through the gates; an arms manufacturer who doesn’t care where the arms get sold to is as guilty of a war crime as a bombardier who drops incendiary on a city and barbecues tens of thousands of people.
And the greater the responsibility, the greater the potential for harm and thus the bigger the crime for failure to do due diligence or discharge those duties properly.
When it comes to events like yesterday, nobody has a greater responsibility on the scene than the police. Nobody. Failure to take that seriously, failure to properly discharge those responsibilities, is about as serious as it gets.
We saw, with Hillsborough, that it was the attitude the police had towards football fans in the main which led to the events. The whole idea of putting fences up in front of supporters, caging them in like animals, speaks to a mind-set that is difficult to fully comprehend.
The cover-up in the aftermath – and their brazen confidence that the public could, via a national newspaper, be conditioned to accept the cover-story – was indicative of a “who cares? They are animals anyway” way of thinking that still prevails in some places today.
If the club really wants this sorted out they will demand that the full investigation be handled by Glasgow City Council’s health and safety officers. They are non-partisan and non-political. They will get to the bottom of it, and if the police, or the club itself, are at fault they will point that out in their report. On no account should the police be allowed to investigate the possibility that they themselves failed on the day. Nor should Celtic.
I’ll go further, the politicians should keep clear of it as well.
Here in Scotland they have shown an appalling disregard for football fans over the last ten years.
The Offensive Behaviour at Football Act criminalised hundreds of them merely for having a political opinion. There is an element of the political class here which thinks of all of us as boot-boys and neds and drunken eejits; I don’t want them near this.
The reports from yesterday – from eye witnesses and people who were actually there – are terrifying in their implications; even with all-seater stadiums the potential for disaster remains in some of our grounds. Something went wrong, very badly wrong, dangerously wrong, amounting, at best, to outright incompetence and at worst possibly criminal negligence. The only way to find that out is with an independent investigation.
An independent investigation might well blame Celtic’s stewarding and clear the police entirely. We just don’t know, which is why neither of them should be poking around in this and the whole lot handed over to somebody else.
Letting the police handle it, with the club looking over their shoulder, will be the opposite of impartial, and if we let that happen you have to question the club’s own sense of responsibility if the report minimises the incident and comes back saying that no-one is to blame.
I’d call that complicity.
Our club has its own responsibility for the safety of our fans, and that cannot be compromised in any way.