The news over the weekend that Celtic has banned Green Brigade tifos during the Champions League games is surprising only to those who think that a single fan organisation should be able to say and do whatever it likes inside our stadium, even if it causes trouble for the club itself. I love much of what these guys do, but some of it is hard to defend.
The pyro is part of it. I’ve written enough times about why that stuff should not be in a football ground. It almost goes without saying now. It is banned. Our club does not want it, and the very act of having it in a stadium is a criminal offence. That people are bleating about police scrutiny whilst they continue to openly break the law astonishes me.
The banners are another part of it. The weekend’s banner had not one thing to do with Celtic Football Club, but I have no specific problem with it. Had they chosen a European match for that there would have been obvious issues and we’d have copped it.
It does not matter whether or not some people believe UEFA’s rules on this are ridiculous – I think so myself; it is the club that suffers when fan groups openly violate those rules.
The club does not trust these guys on this stuff. They can’t. Because no matter how many times they ask them to keep clear of anything that violates UEFA regulations they still cross that line too regularly for comfort. Ironically, it might have been the tifo at Ibrox, that disgusting one which I felt certain would spark a response which never came, which tipped the balance; our club is leery of what The Green Brigade might one day produce in a similar vein.
I personally think the idea that they’d do something that out there is pretty ridiculous. In many ways it’s unfathomable. But the media will be watching, and ever ready to blow things out of proportion. The club won’t allow that. There are too many past concerns here and there’s a feeling amongst some at the club that these guys have been indulged enough.
I think there’s a growing feeling within the club that these guys enjoy being at the centre of the circus a little too much, and a lot of people elsewhere in the stands certainly do, and they find the whole thing tiresome.
Even those who, like me, understand how good these guys are for the atmosphere and are loathe to see any wedge driven between the club and the fan-base recognise that there are obvious inherent risks in creating the perception that one group of supporters has the run of Celtic Park and can live by their own set of rules.
But the club still has the power to impose its will, and they’ve done so.
There is a lot of stick getting given out to them over this, but I am definitely not going to criticise them for it. When the club acts to protect itself, even from fan groups, they deserve our backing.