The Green Brigade’s statement on last night’s incident involving a banger being thrown onto the park was welcome. It’s a sign that they take seriously their role within the support, and they are ready to do a little self-policing in the areas where they congregate.
But their statement contains one glaring, huge, cause for concern and it’s putting them on a collision course with the club, and one that is only going to end one way.
Their statement defends the use of pyrotechnics as a whole and longs for the day when their use has been “normalised.” Which is a quite incredible goal to have in mind.
“As an ultras group we support the safe, sensible use of pyrotechnics,” it says, flatly contradicting a UEFA report which says that there is absolutely no such thing within a football ground. The statement goes on to say, “However the launching of pyrotechnics on to the park or in the direction of people is both unnecessary and counter-productive to any aspirations of normalising its use.”
That is never, ever going to happen in the UK or in most European football countries; UEFA does not want it, the police do not want it, surrounding fans do not want it, the domestic football governing bodies do not want it and Celtic does not want it, or the trouble that goes with it.
The club could not be any clearer on this if it tried.
They have repeated their warnings on pyrotechnic use inside our ground and amongst our support time and time again. The Green Brigade ignores it all it. Its members actively bring them into the ground anyway and the statement makes it clear they will continue to.
And on this, there is no middle ground or compromise.
Look, I will never knock these guys or 99% of the things that they do.
But they can be a little self-indulgent.
One particular case comes to mind; a game against Dundee Utd in February 2013, when they did a walk-out of Celtic Park over something they disagreed with.
The game that day was a barn-stormer. It ended 6-2 to us.
With such a cracking match happening, who even really noticed they were gone?
It’s stuff like this which leaves a lot of fans cold; this feeling that the world would stop if they weren’t at Celtic Park.
They are wrong about that, and the club might very soon put it to the test.
Nevertheless, no-one has to sell me on what they do bring to the place.
I have defended them over banners and songs. I disagreed with them over the decision to hold the Palestinian flag protest because I thought it would be perceived as a snub to a visiting club, but wholeheartedly welcomed the initiative that came out of it, when they did the “match the fine for Palestine” campaign.
Their work on food bags, their charitable endeavours and the passion they show for the club every single week is exceptional, absolutely exceptional.
But their fascination with this stuff defeats comprehension.
Their willingness to go head to head with the club over it is provoking the sort of showdown which will end on in their disbandment, because the club cannot afford the risk to its stadium license because a small group of fans continues to pay no heed to health and safety regulations.
UEFA’s report on this subject is impressive, and backed by the medical profession and seasoned professionals in the HSE field. It is a self-evident fact that these devices are dangerous, which is why even trying to get one into a football ground can carry a three-month jail sentence. One of the report’s conclusions points out that; “All pyrotechnic devices have a ‘safety’ distance for good reason which exceeds the available space within a crowded stand or stadium.”
I am glad that The Green Brigade takes seriously the issue of encroachment onto the field; they have highlighted it in their statement along with the throwing of objects towards the pitch. They were the fans I thought most likely to get a grip on the situation, and I didn’t at any point last night believe they were responsible for what happened although a lot of people jumped to that conclusion almost at once; but they have no record of doing anything like that.
Yet there is a certain myopia at the heart of today’s statement, and it’s something that I believe is going to cause them a lot of problems with Celtic if they continue down that road. The club will only tolerate so much of this stuff before they come up with a plan to deal with it, and politicians are as likely to bring in Strict Liability over flares as they are over anything else; it seems to me that it represents just as big a risk to us as throwing coins.
The use of pyrotechnics inside grounds is never going to be “normalised”, no matter what The Green Brigade thinks.
It is something that the average fan does not want to see near them, and the club will oppose it with everything it has.
Remember, we are one of the only countries in Europe which doesn’t even allow fans to have a beer inside the ground … the day will never come when fireworks and flares and smoke bombs are permitted whilst Budweiser is banned.
Today that statement must have been read inside Celtic Park with deep, deep dismay.
Whilst the appeal to fellow fan-groups is more than welcome, it still ends on that note where the Green Brigade is telling the whole support and the club too that it will continue to follow only those rules and regulations which suit it, and so what could have been a huge step forward instead becomes a step backward, and one which the club will not – indeed cannot – continue to ignore.
Phil Mac Giolla Bhain and Sweet For Additcts are putting on a performance in Glasgow in a weeks time; it’s Phil’s play Rebellion, which should be well worth seeing – I’m looking forward to it myself – and the Sweet for Addicts organisation is well worth supporting; they assist people who’s lives have been touched by addiction issues. There are still a limited number of places available, and you can buy tickets by clicking this link. Please do so and support the wonderful work that the organisation does, and come along and see this excellent artistic work.
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