If you’ve been following events online involving the Ibrox fan group The Union Bears this past 24 hours, and you can’t have missed it if you follow football in Scotland online at all, then it should be clear that civic Scotland is going to have one Hell of decision to make in the next fortnight.
The Unions Bears have circulated one of their demented communiques, urging their members and nutty followers to congregate in George Square after the game at Ibrox should they win, so that they can celebrate … and show the city belongs to them.
First, I don’t expect us to lose that game … still, this is disgraceful.
The supremacist reek of that statement is one thing, but what it amounts to is that they are pre-announcing their intentions to mount a hostile takeover of a major city centre area, and turn it into their own wee Nuremberg Rally. The sentiment is clear. The connotations are not something that you need a code-book to unlock and comprehend.
This is illegal. It will be discriminatory by its very nature. It will be a highly unwelcome spectacle for tourism and a nightmare for local businesses … and Police Scotland and Glasgow City Council, need to be very clear that it will not be permitted to happen.
No dubiety, no half-assed statements about how the situation will be “monitored.” The last time they held such a gathering they wrecked the place, fought with each other and then turned on the police themselves as anyone could have predicted after mass lawlessness was allowed to go unchecked in the first place. No, this one has to be stomped on before it starts.
Title parties in the areas of Glasgow where Celtic fans usually congregate anyway are one thing; George Square is the civic centre, it belongs to all of us, and this is not a title party or anything like it; this is a rally designed to intimidate and express dominance, and that ought to be pretty clear from the wording. If Glasgow City Council and Police Scotland allows that, what’s next?
What happens if there are counter-demos? What happens if The Green Brigade next puts out its own statement urging our fans to get together there if we win? That would be just as unwelcome and just as incendiary and I would not expect that to go ahead any more than I would want this to. Because that’s one bad, hard, dangerous road we’re starting down if it does.
This city is not perfect, but it’s a triumph of our history and people that we have never become Belfast and none but a tiny handful wish it were otherwise. The loathing between these clubs has never been more visceral and the poison that flows out of their stands in particular has never been more bitter or savage, and a lot of their fans spend too much of their time mesmerised by dark obsessions and conspiracy theories, and those are not great conditions for allowing organised events designed to express ownership of this city.
The potential consequences of this are enormous, and that is why it cannot be allowed to happen, and statements to that effect should not be delayed but released immediately and the harshest measures threatened for anyone who attempts it.