There are two possible explanations for the shocking piece Michael Grant published in The Times yesterday; either this clown has no idea what he’s writing about or he does know what he’s writing about and has simply chosen to misrepresent the facts.
We would call that lying. I make no bones about that at all.
Grant does know some of the facts here, I am no doubt about that at all, so there’s little question as to which of the above explanations seems most likely. What he calls “five years of point scoring and deteriorating relations” is about as dishonest a way to frame this whole debate as it is possible to get.
There has been no “point-scoring” from Celtic here.
Let me refresh his memory, not that I need to because his piece starts out so one-sided and spiteful that it’s frankly disgraceful.
This whole thing started with the Ibrox club cutting Celtic’s allocation from 7000 to a mere 700.
Our response was not about point-scoring. It was about basic fairness.
They were well aware of what would happen if they made that allocation cut, because we told them far in advance of it what we would do. They made a choice knowing full well what the consequences would be and Celtic kept to their word, a promise they made to their own fans that if our supporters were disenfranchised that we would have no option but to do the same to theirs.
Nobody at Celtic liked it. Nobody at Celtic likes it even now.
During that “five years of point scoring” our club has made several efforts – every effort in fact – to resolve this matter in a way that would restore the situation to what it was before. The one crystal clear example of point-scoring during that spell was when Ibrox cynically capitalised on the COVID restrictions to deny our fans tickets for Ibrox last season.
Grant may or may not know the facts of that.
If he does know the facts he’s wilfully ignoring them in his article. If he doesn’t know the facts, then maybe he should keep his ignorant mouth shut instead of blundering about in something he doesn’t fully understand.
But for the record, what happened there was that they allotted Celtic just over 700 tickets and then, at the last minute, asked for a guarantee that we would give them the same number.
What Celtic did next was a measure of how we’ve tried to conduct ourselves throughout this whole affair, and Grant can, if he’s unaware of this, check with people at our club who will confirm what I’m about to write.
Celtic did not fudge this. We did not lie. We told the Ibrox club straight out that we would like to offer that assurance but we couldn’t because there was a chance that a new strain of COVID would sweep the country and result in restrictions again.
And Ibrox’s staff knew that before they made the demand. On that pretext they told us we were not getting tickets for the opening game between the two clubs last season. They wilfully, knowingly, exploited a national crisis for their own benefit and at our expense … a decision which backfired on them in truly spectacular fashion on 2 February 2022.
Likewise, what has happened in this case is very, very simple.
As I wrote earlier, their fans were not banned from Celtic Park nor restricted from attending.
There was no point-scoring involved in this at any stage. The “no fans” decision was not taken jointly no matter what he thinks or writes or tries to convince people of. Their fans would have been perfectly welcome at Celtic Park for this fixture and that none of them will be there is not the fault of our club.
They made that decision themselves. And for no other reason than they did not want the negative publicity which would have been guaranteed when the news broke that we had turned down an allocation at their ground because of safety concerns.
And this is where Grant’s article is at its most flagrantly dishonest. He claims that safety concerns are at the heart of why no Ibrox fans will be at Celtic Park.
Calling it an “unsatisfying defeat for negotiations and policing” he then says that it will be played in front of only our supporters because “the safety and security of a small number of away fans cannot be guaranteed.”
For this, he should be severely admonished by his editors and Celtic should make an official complaint to make sure that he is because that statement is utterly without foundation. No such concerns exist. No such concerns have been expressed by the police or Celtic’s stewarding operation.
I’ll go further: it’s my understanding that no such concerns were expressed by Ibrox either.
If he’s being told otherwise then he’s being colossally misinformed, but he should have spoken to more than just “sources” at Ibrox if he wanted the complete picture.
I do not see it as my job to represent Celtic.
I do not see it as my job to toe the party line.
I do not see it as my responsibility to do spin control on behalf of the people inside the club.
When they get it wrong I write it; Hell, I write it even when I only think they’ve got it wrong and that has put plenty of egg on my face down through the years and it will again.
In this case, I can write with total conviction that Celtic has behaved appropriately and with considerable patience throughout this whole affair. We have handled our business in an appropriate and honourable fashion. We have done nothing more than respond in accordance with our stated policies and in defence of our own supporters.
At no time has Celtic upped the ante here or engaged in point scoring.
On the contrary, this club has made every effort – and this club continues to make every effort – to return this situation to the sanity of the previous arrangements which gave away fans more opportunities to watch their teams and which, as paradoxical as it might sound, were actually safer and easier for the police and the authorities to deal with. The current situation disenfranchises supporters and has made our experience of going to their stadium manifestly unsafe.
Celtic wants a full restoration of the away allocation.
And I’m writing this as somebody who actually prefers it this way … who would never have their fans at Celtic Park again.
That is not the thinking of the club, who simply want a return to the way things used to be done.
We have said so publicly. We have said so privately. But until Ibrox changes its policy we are not going to change ours, because no matter how much people want to preach that “high ground” cobblers none of them would take that decision in similar circumstances and no-one really expects us to. Because it’s not turning the other cheek as much as it’s playing the mug’s role.
And that brings me back to the central issue here. We didn’t suffer an allocation cut for the next game at Ibrox. We turned down their 700 ticket offer. But nor did we punish them for the decision that we made.
We made our decision out of concerns for our fans … they made the choice to deliberately disenfranchise theirs.
So tomorrow when the two teams run out at Celtic Park in front of 60,000 of our own fans that will be, as everything in this affair has been from the start, down to one club and only one club and that club is not Celtic.