The biggest story to come out of the AGM was Celtic CEO Peter Lawwell promising that the club is ready to turn down an allocation of tickets for Ibrox unless the safety of spectators can be guaranteed. The marker has been laid down to Sevco.
Their scandalous and dangerous act of pandering to their fans has been called out.
I wrote last night about the Sevco fan site which hilariously suggested that their club would get a “huge lift” if we turned those tickets down. Imagine my surprise when the exact same site put up an article a short time later accusing us of an over-reaction and trying to pass the parcel with the blame. Their club is apparently not responsible for this act of pettiness … I wonder then who is? Their side, perversely, has tried to blame us.
Here’s the news; it was their own chairman, Dave King, who made this decision. And he made it after assuring the league, Celtic and the police that he would not do any such thing. It was a shameless act and their supporters lapped it up, until we responded in kind.
And we were always going to. When Sevco fans started pushing their club to that action this website warned them, explicitly, that Celtic’s policy would be to deal with that in a reciprocal fashion; in other words, how you treat us is exactly how we’ll treat you.
People can wail after the fact and make whatever statements they like, but that was clear from the start and adheres to basic fairness. The idea that Celtic might not respond was more than just erroneous; I’d go as far as to say it was sheer fantasy.
It was preposterous to expect us to sit on our hands.
But ever since the twin decisions were taken, Celtic has been gravely concerned about that match.
Ibrox is a manifestly unsafe stadium for visiting fans, and I don’t care how many of their supporters are screaming blue murder at that allegation. Reports of fans being showered with missiles are commonplace. And Sevco is well aware of this, of course.
UEFA regulations state that any club traveling abroad be given 5% of the match tickets; Sevco has violated that rule in both of their Group Stage games thus far. And they did so after they got special permission from UEFA because “the local police” – which is to say Police Scotland – view matches at that ground as “high risk fixtures.”
Sevco fans will say this is because the Russians are notorious troublemakers.
That was their excuse anyway.
But what was their excuse with Rapid Vienna? What about the Croats who came to town and left with two of their supporters stabbed? Sevco forums buzz about how the fans were “allowed” to walk up Paisley Road West … the last time I looked that was a public street.
And I make no bones about using the same rationale some of them do every July.
Visiting fans are made welcome in other parts of Europe; here the locals demand a police escort for them when walking up the road? The common denominator here – Russians, Austrians, Czechs – is the club their teams came up against, nothing else.
A section of the Sevco support is absolutely incapable of behaving itself, and poses a risk to other fans.
Even the suggestion that Celtic might refuse tickets on the basis of fan safety has already reverberated around the European footballing media. It is trending south of the border, where the Ibrox club hopes to salve what’s left of its reputation by associating themselves with Gerrard. As I said in a previous piece, he has proved himself a very poor guardian of his own reputation, and especially in his choice of club and the baggage it carries.
If 800 Celtic fans do attend that game they will be subjected to full-spectrum hatred for the entirety of the game. If, as I expect, the team takes care of business on the park I cannot even image the intensity of the anger that will sweep through those stands; there is simply no way to guarantee that our supporters will be safe short of putting them inside a protective cage. A couple of hundred police might not be nearly enough to prevent serious trouble.
But should we refuse that allocation – and the reality of that is just sinking in for some Peepul, which is why the fan site which was gleeful about the prospect reversed gear shortly thereafter – the headlines will travel around the footballing world. Celtic will have branded Ibrox an unsafe place for our fans.
Every single thing Sevco has done to promote the “Old Firm” will be turned against them as the sports media across the island feeds on the story and what it ultimately means; their club has deliberately endangered our fans with their act of spite, in allowing only 800 of them into the so-called “bitterest derby in the world.”
And the sports media south of the border will pore over the incidents from earlier in the season, including the stabbing of two Croatian fans, which our own press has blatantly ignored. What does that do for “the famous global brand”?
How does the “Steven Gerrard effect” suit you now?
Sevco share certificates might as well be toilet paper.
It’s only going to take one person – Brendan Rodgers – to say to the board “You know what? 7000 fans, 800 fans, no fans at all … we can handle Ibrox” and what started out as just talk amongst the Celtic forums will suddenly be a very real possibility and anyone who doesn’t think our club would do it hasn’t been paying attention.
I know what the feelings inside Celtic Park are in relation to that club and especially its chairman and they make some of what I’ve written seem neutral. If polled right now, I think our supporters would be in favour of rejecting those tickets entirely.
If Brendan and the team are content to play there in front of a wholly hostile crowd, then I’d say it’s 60/40 that it’ll happen that way.
I know for a fact that our club is fully aware of the PR shit-storm that decision would unleash and where it would be directed, but of course that’s not the principle reason they’d be doing it.
Because the concerns for our fans are real and should something go wrong that day, badly wrong, pointing the finger of blame at the home club will not un-ring the bell, or fix whatever gets broken. It’ll be too late then for rethinks or regrets, and the dark cloud that will hang over all of Scottish football will make the events at Tynecastle recently look like a minor affair. And a section of our support will hold our club accountable with the Ibrox board.
This is not a judgment that has to be reached right now, but it has to be made.
Fan groups are going to be consulted before any final decision is taken … think carefully if your supporters club is asked to give a view on it. I know some fans will want to go to that game regardless of the risks, and I understand that, and I understand supporting the team.
But if this decision is one that the bulk of our supporters will be intently anticipating, I can tell you that the anxiety level at Ibrox will rise in direction proportion to that. Don’t be surprised if they release one of their famous ranting statements before the weekend … it would be just like them to accuse us of stoking a fire only to pour petrol on it.
And if they do, I don’t think I need to point out how much stronger it would make the argument in favour of telling them where to stick their tickets. This is the bind they are in here, and they did it to themselves, no matter what nonsense their websites might write.
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