The news, today, that a section of Ibrox will need to be closed for the Legia Warsaw return leg in the Europa League came as a shock, but not because we are in any way surprised that what European football’s governing body described as “racist behaviour” goes on at that ground; no, this was a surprise because UEFA apparently opened an investigation into a Scottish club for such behaviour without the media even noticing they had.
Now, at this point, I have to say a mea culpa because most of the Usual Suspects in Celtic cyberspace failed to spot it either, but then we’re not overly concerned with goings on over then when we’ve got our own house to get in order.
But it is shameful the media didn’t know. Or didn’t they?
Perhaps they just … chose not report it.
I’m sure that this would not surprise some of us in the slightest. Indeed, perhaps they were just too busy praising the club for their “anti-sectarian campaign” which they launched a mere five days after the game.
It is all but certain that the club knew they were in UEFA’s crosshairs by that time, so one major question – why launch this campaign now? – has at least been partially answered.
It was, as we all expected, sheer window dressing. It’s also worth noting that as part of that campaign fans will not be “banned” any longer from the ground, but sent for “rehabilitation” instead. As if a wee cup of coffee and a lecture will make someone less of a bigot.
So they won’t even lose next season’s season ticket money, and they don’t have to get into a full-scale confrontation with the Union Bears, who were almost certainly the Peepul involved in this. The whole incident will be whitewashed … except for two things.
First, this shames and disgraces the club.
If the club cared about that it would have tackled these folk long ago, and so the impact of that shame and disgrace will be reputational more than anything that forces concrete action.
But UEFA have made it clear that any further offences – and we don’t know yet if there was a repeat of this stuff against either Copenhagen or Progres yet – will result in an even harsher sanction; the closure of the ground for a European game.
We can see clearly here that the powers that be at Ibrox are not really serious about confronting this problem, only about mitigating the impact of it.
They won’t ban the supporters who’ve done this and their scheme to cut down on this behaviour has already proved a dismal failure; within days of its launch the Scottish press had to write articles about the sectarian karaoke bellowing out of the stands at Kilmarnock, which was only one problem that afternoon.
These people shame their club, but they shame Scottish football as a whole.
If only Scottish football itself cared enough to deal robustly with them.
The more I see UEFA getting it right the more I wonder if Strict Liability isn’t a good idea after all.