As most of you doubtless now know, at Ibrox last night their fans unveiled a tifo before the game which was as nakedly sectarian as you are ever likely to see. That’s the long and short of it. Emblazoned with the image of notorious American street thug William Poole and the slogan “Surrender or you’ll die”, it is a loathsome sentiment.
Two things would have happened had The Green Brigade done something like that, not that they ever would because their own political views and those of the Ibrox gutter element are so diametrically opposed it’s unreal. The left doesn’t have people like this. These kinds of sentiments have no place in left wing or liberal discourse.
The first thing that would have happened would have been that the media and our chattering classes would have lost their minds over it. The second is that UEFA would have stepped up to the mark and opened an immediate investigation.
I do expect one of those two things to happen, because how can it not?
Those words alone invite questions. And even if you were unfamiliar with the genesis of those words, and even in the unlikely scenario where nobody made you aware of where they are from, you would certainly have your interest piqued when someone from Ibrox was forced to explain, “Yeah, that’s a line from a song.”
And your next question would be, “Oh right. What’s the song?”
Which is where the serious, and more probing, questions would arise.
Their best defence is that it’s from “The Cry Was No Surrender.” And of course, that brings it into the realm of the political banner. For which they will get sanctioned.
But see, the image … that’s the problem with trying to explain those words away as something other than what they so obviously are, words from another song, Ibrox’s anthem to ethnic cleansing, the one that has the line in it about being up to their knees in fenian blood.
William Poole is essentially the anti-Irish, anti-immigrant bigot portrayed by Daniel Day Lewis in the Scorsese movie The Gangs Of New York. Now you tell me … an anti-Catholic, razor carrying street gang boss who ran his local community rackets and spread fear amongst immigrants all across the city. Does that sound like somebody else or is it just me?
It’s not even a nod and a wink to that song. It’s Billy Fullerton except they pulled what I always call a Terry George bait and switch; Terry George is the co-writer and director of Some Mother’s Son. He freely admits it’s a film about Bobby Sands, but they might have found it difficult to get that made, and so they created Aidan Gillen’s character, Gerard Quigley, and made his mother the bridge to the audience. It’s just a coincidence he shared Bobby Sand’s cell.
UEFA are going to do their own digging, and when they identify that guy and they asked FARE, who know this issue inside out, to join the dots they won’t need help from Bletchley Park to make the connection. So that banner is a big problem.
Let’s start with the obvious thing UEFA will want to know about that anti-Irish, anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant far right banner; “They had to get into the ground to set that up. And nobody in your stewarding operation or at a higher level asked what that was before they did it? Or did you guys know and thus knowingly allow that in your stadium?”
I think that begs a second question and it will be the one that decides the level of the sanction, “With those words and that image having been allowed, do you expect us to believe that you’ve done all you can as a club to keep that sort of sentiment at bay?”
To be honest, I don’t know how they’re supposed to answer those questions, because all UEFA has to do is get hold of even one clip of footage from one SPFL game in the last few years, and especially away from home, and they’ll hear those words lustily belted out before they’re ten minutes into the broadcast. It gets sung every single week and not one word is uttered about it except by a handful of people in the media who long ago realised they are banging their heads on the wall.
If UEFA wants further context, they should be observing goings on right here in Scotland, where our own club has refused to accept tickets for their ground because our fans are not safe there and they have not satisfied us that they intend to make it so.
Hey when your fans are putting such a horrific statement on a tifo, that spells it out better than any Celtic press statement ever would.
The club tolerates the behaviour of its rancid element. That’s the fact of it. The idea that they would ever make serious attempts to weed these people out is ridiculous and we know it is. They make no effort to get them under control, instead offering Celtic mitigation measures so they are unable to physically harm our fans.
No-one cares that the intent is very much there, no-one cares that the kind of people who make netting necessary are the issue and they shouldn’t be near a football ground. Nor that the Ibrox board, which by virtue of the season ticket system has the names and numbers of every person who sits in those seats and has equal information for all the away tickets they sell and somehow they haven’t removed these people yet.
UEFA will not be as coy as the SFA and the SPFL have been.
There are actually regulations which our governing bodies refuse to use.
There are already rules in place for our governing bodies to tackle songs like The Billy Boys. They will not do it. The SPFL has the regulations in hand to sanction the Ibrox club if its supporters threaten the safety of ours, and the fact that our club has had to take unilateral action, and is threatening more, tells you how seriously the SPFL takes those.
What’s the wording, do you think, in those regulations? I’ve read them and it’s as vague as the regulations on away fan ticket allocations, and that’s quite deliberate because it gives them the wiggle room to do nothing at all.
As long as clubs can show they are taking a “pro-active role” in addressing these sorts of incidents the governing bodies leave them to it.
But what happens if a club can tick all the boxes on their wee checklist but the problem continues and grows and finally turns into a much larger problem? What happens if the club, say, issues orange jerseys? Slaps a supremacist slogan on the walls?
Allows tifos preaching ethnic cleansing?
Football governance in Scotland is a joke.
The governing body in Nyon will not be so lenient. I will be astonished if they don’t seek answers and then sanction Ibrox harshly based in no small part on the answers they get. Maybe they will force action which our governing bodies lamentably will not.