The news yesterday that Celtic’s Ibrox allocation has been set at a paltry 700 tickets is not really news at all. This an impasse with no end. This is not a temporary measure, something that will fade away without us even remembering that it was there. This is, to all intents and purposes, the state of play for the foreseeable future.
It might even be a permanent arrangement. We should consider that likely.
One side has tried, in vain, to come to some agreement which ends this bizarre situation. We have been rebuffed each and every time.
Ignoring us isn’t even the worst of it.
When COVID’s Delta wave was winding down, and being brought under control by the vaccines, this club was handed 700 Ibrox tickets. They then cynically used the possibility of a further outbreak to snatch them away from us, on the pretext that we would not guarantee them a similar allocation, believing that we either would not or could not respond by shutting their own fans out of Parkhead.
They were wrong.
Our policy, from the start, has been to treat them in a reciprocal manner. Their team came to Parkhead for that stunning night last February with no supporters in the ground.
Talk about a cheap stunt coming back to haunt them, and what made it more satisfying is that they had denied us the Ibrox allocation last year specifically because we would not behave either irresponsibly or deceitfully. We knew COVID could come sweeping back and we would not make promises we might not be able to keep.
And of course, that game was supposed to be played in front of just 500 fans; the SPFL had the sense to bring forward the winter break a week. But our stance on the ticket standoff ended up being doubly vindicated by those events.
But in my view that was the moment when any residual hope that this could all be resolved to the satisfaction of fans on both sides of the divide went by the boards. Celtic were beyond angry about that attempt to stitch us up, and I don’t believe we’ll ever again hold our hand out just so their club can spit on it. We are where we are for the long term.
When Ibrox’s board gave in to the demands of their lunatic fringe on this I think they expected that we would reduce their allocation but not cut it to the bone, perhaps in the vain hope that they might eventually behave in a similar manner.
Our board are no mugs. They knew that was never going to happen. They knew the board over there would sneer at us for so weak a response, and so from the start – even before it happened, back when this was still only something being discussed on their forums – we warned them what doing this would mean. And we stuck to our guns.
But always we held open the door. Always we made it clear that if a deal was to be done that we would happily negotiate. Those days are over, and they ended last season when they pulled those 700 tickets, taking full advantage of the global health crisis to do it.
So whilst the current Ibrox board is in place, and whilst any board there is still in thrall to its fans, there is no prospect whatsoever of things returning to what was once the status quo. The next time this makes headlines ought to be when things change and right now peace in the Ukraine seems more likely than a thaw in this ice cold war.