Celtic got fined again yesterday, as I’m sure everyone is aware.
The issue was the Green Brigade banners at the Lazio home game. “Illicit banners” UEFA calls them.
Illicit, in this case, in that they carry exactly the same anti-racism message as the governing body itself promotes.
But that phrase covers a lot of ground, of course, and a lot of banners.
Celtic were fined a few years ago for a banner criticising UEFA itself.
We have been fined for flying the flag of a country recognised by over 100 others at the UN. UEFA has closed grounds for sectarianism, racism, for flares, for fans fighting … but never over “illicit banners”; even they know that this matter is a small-minded and petty one, or they’d take it more seriously.
Our media has had a lot of fun with this nonsense, writing about how Celtic fans have one of the largest “crime counts” at UEFA, an organisation that has handed out awards to the same supporters. Clearly, some of the hacks are baffled as to why we’ve not been banned from their competitions yet.
It’s because UEFA itself knows this is small potatoes.
But UEFA ought to have the courage to see that through to its natural conclusion; that perhaps, in some ways, its own Strict Liability criteria isn’t fit for purpose.
We know what constitutes a serious offence.
There are things so obviously wrong that they should – and do – carry the harshest possible punishments, like ground closures, like clubs being banned … this isn’t one of them, which makes me wonder if these nonsensical rules should even be in there at all.
Celtic isn’t going to be seriously disadvantaged by £13,000 fines … the number allow probably doesn’t cover the costs getting the committee together to process the case. Other clubs get similar fines for the same thing, it doesn’t seem worth the effort that must go into prosecuting these.
It seems pointless to me, and absolutely self-defeating.
It’s time UEFA tossed these rules out and re-wrote them.
There are offences which do require hearings and disciplinary proceedings, and punishments which need to be handed down for them.
But these kind of fines, for fans sending clear messages to politicians – as the Green Brigade did with the Scottish Government over OBAF – or which actually broadly in line with UEFA’s own stated political persuasion … they just make the organisation look stupid.
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