Yesterday, going largely un-noticed by many in the support, a renewed call went up from a man some regard as an old adversary; a funny way to refer to a well-known fan of the club who does not even hide that fact from public view.
His name is James Dornan, and he would very much like to be the author of a government bill which introduces Strict Liability to our game.
There is a section of our support, and one that would scream vocally of the injustice of such a thing, which seems almost to thirst for it.
Because aside from a sizeable section of the Ibrox fan-base no other set of fans does more to bring it closer, inch by inch, than they do.
It’s reflected in their songs, in their fascination with playing with fireworks, in their occasional running battles with those on the other side of the city of a similar frame of mind and in their constant references to battles and wars and all the other stuff that makes you wonder if they’ve played too much Call of Duty.
For a while now I’ve been amazed and appalled by the attitudes of a lot of people in our support on the subject of pyro. This stuff is unsafe and it’s illegal. That’s the truth of it, and the idea that there is some grey area here is both nonsensical and dangerous.
This stuff does not belong in football stadia.
There is talk of “legal pyro” and of the law on this one being ridiculous, and it doesn’t matter what I or anyone else in our fan-base happens to think of those things. We live in reality and must deal with things on that basis.
So what’s the reality?
The reality is that we have aggressive health and safety regulations in this country as relates to football grounds and there are three very good reasons why; Hillsborough, Ibrox and Bradford. As such, we have some of the strictest guidelines in Europe and nobody can dispute that these have made football a much safer environment than it used to be.
There is no political reality in the UK under which that is ever, ever going to change. If you disagree with the law in this country you have precisely three choices; obey it regardless, lobby to change it or break it and see how that goes.
One of those choices clearly doesn’t interest these guys at all, and so that leaves only two. Of the remaining options, lobbying for a change in the law would be an act of utter futility akin to trying to bring back corporal discipline and forced child labour.
It has exactly zero mainstream political support.
The Offensive Behaviour At Football Act would be with us today had the SNP not lost their overall majority in the Scottish Parliament. Fan organisations worked with legislators in other parties to put a ludicrous piece of legislation in the bin where it belonged; there is no cross-party support for a policy which allows the use of fireworks or smoke devices in grounds.
So that leaves openly breaking the law.
Which in this case is a strategy that has worked far longer than I ever thought that it would, but it’s one that has, from the outset, come with an increasing level of danger for all involved, and for our club.
Because pissing openly on legislators and those responsible for policing only stokes resentment and sooner or later the rent comes due, and it comes due with a full house in spades.
Because unfortunately for the pyro-neds, these are the very people who decide whether games can go on or not, what crowds should be permitted at them and they have at their disposal the ability to search every person who enters a stadium, regardless of how long that takes, or even to partially or completely close grounds altogether.
And all that will happen. But long before it does, Celtic will act first.
There is a campaign, right now, to expand the standing section to an entire stand. That was a tough sell amongst a lot of our supporters as it is, as many believe we get enough issues we don’t need from the section that’s there already.
It was a tough sell for those of us who believe that a needless major infrastructure project takes money away from where it belongs; out on the pitch, being spent on the team.
Some of those involved in the campaign seem to want to eradicate hope completely; if not they are doing a sterling job of acting like saboteurs. As this site has written before, some of the songs being sung by a section of the Celtic support right now are filthy, sewer level bile that doesn’t belong in our fan-base. Almost all respondents to those pieces agree.
The club itself needs to speak out more on this. It hasn’t uttered a word. Those of us banging this drum are, thus, left pissing in the wind. The longer it goes on the more attention it’s going to get. The more attention it gets the more it increases the chances that someone like James Dornan is going to draft something that gets cross party support.
I oppose strict liability being introduced to Scottish football.
I don’t trust that those who would implement it won’t use it against our club.
A little bit like VAR you might say.
I don’t believe that it would be even-handed.
I don’t even believe that it would concentrate on what the real problems are. I think those responsible would use it to craft something that is just the Offensive Behaviour At Football Act under another name.
I think that small group of our supporters which wants to sing about dead Ibrox kit-men and the like are loathsome bastards who I have nothing in common with at all except that they happen to self-define as Celtic fans, and I really wish they didn’t. Whatever ideology that inspires them is nothing I want any part of and I want as far away from the club as possible.
Not for one moment do I think those inside Celtic feel any differently.
So the idea of holding the club itself responsible for their behaviour is just not on.
Could we speak out about it? Yes.
Other than that, what else is Dornan proposing that we do?
UEFA’s version, on which this is presumably based, doesn’t ban the singing of Irish songs, or seek to eliminate free speech in other ways as I’m certain Scotland’s seedy little version would be expanded to do.
At UEFA, Strict Liability is there to keep “political expression” out of the stands, and as I’m sure he knows full well was a response to right-wing extremism.
It wasn’t a catch-all for anyone who just doesn’t like certain things to demand that those things be removed from football grounds.
I want those particular songs gone from Celtic Park, but if you’re asking me if I would support laws making singing them illegal I’d say Hell no because boy oh boy what a slippery slope that would put us on.
Dornan is getting a lot of coverage today on the back of those pyro displays on Sunday, and he’s got an even bigger platform because of that section of our fan-base which frankly disgraced itself with those obscene songs.
The fans across the city were involved in such a litany of disgusting behaviour that even some in the media who have never bothered to write about the subject before have tackled it in the last few days … and fair play to them.
But kudos, in particular, to Andrew Smith who continues to be excellent on this subject and to Graeme McGarry who has written about it a couple of times in the past few days.
I don’t agree with Andrew Smith on certain things but I respect, completely, how that man has been consistent on this issue every step of the way and when he clearly states that he wants our game scrubbed clean of it I wholeheartedly support that.
But legislation isn’t the way to do that, and I write that even as someone who does agree with Dornan on the key point he raises over and over again; football refuses to act and get its house in order here in Scotland and nobody genuinely expects that to change.
And just as has happened in England with the appointment of a regulator, where football will not clean up its act then those in government more and more show that they’re willing to instead.
I may not agree with that, but the difference between me and these people is that I acknowledge the reality of it, and if people at the clubs themselves think it’s a bluff they are in for a shock because it’s not and if things continue as they are then we will end up with Strict Liability or something like it imposed on football, and that will open rifts that will linger for years.
And yeah the clubs will have played their part in bringing that about, but first and foremost it will be certain elements in the stands who will bear the burden and face the consequences.
If these people are too stupid to realise that they are practically begging for it then hell mend them.