As we get closer to the weekend’s game, the number of ex-Ibrox players who appearing in the media to whinge about the lack of away fans continues to grow. They are all framing this the same way, as something that is a result of two clubs showing intransigence.
But we all know that nothing could be further from the truth.
This is starting to really piss me off, in part because I know that there will be a lot less sound and fury over this when we travel to Ibrox with no supporters. This is, in part, to make Celtic out to be bad guys here.
Yet all of it is based on a fundamental lie.
The latest person to push this is Charlie Miller.
It’s not even enough to say now that we must remember that the Ibrox club, itself, was the cause of all this in the first place. The situation we find ourselves in now has no precedent in the recent history of the game, and once again that’s entirely their fault.
This is not, as Miller and others wish to characterise it, a ban on away fans.
The absence of their supporters at Celtic Park this weekend is entirely the choice of their club, just as the decision not to take an allocation for Ibrox is because of a decision from ours.
The difference is, we turned our allocation down first, and out of genuine concerns for the safety of our supporters. There was no prohibition whatsoever on them accepting an allocation for Celtic Park.
We did not impose that on them. We would not have been able to.
The SFA regulations clearly state that clubs have a responsibility to make “reasonable arrangements” for away fans to attend games. We did not ban theirs. We could not ban theirs.
Their club looked at the situation it was in and how the media would have been forced to cover the decision we made, and they made a deliberate choice to “take the draw” in PR terms, at the expense of their own supporters and that’s the simple fact of it.
I cannot stress enough that this was not a “joint decision.”
We refused our allocation and made it clear that we would need to share with our supporters the concerns which led to that decision. That would have been a “clear the front page” moment … their club at that point had two options. To accept the reputational damage that this wrought or to spin. The only way to spin this was to turn down Celtic Park tickets and paint this as mutual.
Now listen, that’s an entirely legitimate response. They made a calculation. They weighed up the two scenarios and they decided that screwing over their own fans for the coming game was a better outcome than taking the PR hit … there’s nothing wrong with that, and in their shoes I wonder if other clubs would have made the same choice.
But the fundamental dishonesty in anyone trying to portray this as some kind of head-banger decision by two boards which refuse to compromise is too much to stomach. Celtic’s very legitimate concerns over the safety of our fans and the measures in place at Ibrox are thus completely ignored and the media focuses on the soap opera instead.
You can tell how seriously the take our well-being by the calibre of people they chose to feature talking about it. Charlie Miller doesn’t have the intelligence of a pet goldfish. The audience is made stupider just by paying attention to him, and the idea that he is offering any kind of unbiased perspective here is little more than a joke.
The two clubs had away fans for the games earlier in the season.
Not a single person in the media has asked what changed between then and now.
But we know what changed.
This time last season, a Celtic official got hit in the head with a bottle at Ibrox and this season our fans were the targets of a shower of missiles where we were very lucky someone didn’t get killed.
When Celtic enquired as to what measures the home club intended to take to make sure that neither of those incidents was repeated we were rebuffed.
During the game there last April, glass was thrown at our keeper. Jota was pelted with coins at the corner flag. A fan attempted to enter the field when Carter Vickers scored the goal and had to be physically restrained by fellow supporters.
The incidents at the last game, earlier this season, were described to me as far worse than anything that those who were there have witnessed there before, and in the aftermath of that game this site wrote that Ibrox is now a manifestly unsafe environment for our fans and the club apparently took the same view, and especially after talks with officials there which bore no fruit and left all involved at Celtic ever more concerned.
Alex Rae this week almost casually dismissed all talk of safety concerns when he said he “didn’t buy it.”
Now we have Charlie Miller trotting out garbage about how he thinks the two clubs are pathetic.
But there is no two clubs in this, only one which caused this problem in the first place, and our club which has to decide how to respond in relation to it.