As this website reported earlier in the week, The Green Brigade have had their access to away tickets cut off pending a review.
The news was confirmed tonight across various mainstream and fan media outlets, and Celtic has already notified those affected by direct mail.
“As the group in question has been informed in writing, this decision to suspend access to away tickets relates to very clear and extremely serious unsafe and unacceptable behaviour at recent away matches, including those against Feyenoord and Motherwell. As an example, at Feyenoord, widespread and unsafe use of pyrotechnics resulted in another fine for the Club from UEFA. Investigations are ongoing in relation to unsafe behaviour at Motherwell, including rushing turnstiles and forcing open fire exits to permit access to individuals without tickets,” Celtic statement reads.
Their home tickets are unaffected at the moment, but having spoken to someone at Celtic Park this evening it is impossible to ignore what might very soon be coming down the pipe. This is the much-anticipated warning measure, something to remind them that their presence at games is predicated on the tolerance of the club.
I suspect it will be their last.
As Celtic’s statement makes abundantly clear, this is not specifically about the Kilmarnock game and the banner. That has played its part in the timing but this has been under discussion and their behaviour under severe scrutiny for a while.
In the interim there were incidents in Holland and at Motherwell which the club has deemed unacceptable, and even dangerous.
The incident at Motherwell is a good case in point.
That was entirely misrepresented, and The Green Brigade version, which was publicised widely was cited as an example of heavy-handed policing and stewarding.
It was nothing of the sort.
It was Police Scotland and Celtic’s own stewards trying to prevent fans outside from breaking open a fire-door to allow those without tickets into the stadium.
A similar incident, at Tynecastle not that long ago, did result in fans forcing their way through a security gate.
I’ve long known about the Tynecastle incident.
I wasn’t aware of the details of the one at Motherwell when the video of police “blocking” that door was being circulated … but with the Tynecastle incident in mind, and with The Green Brigade’s increasingly adversarial relationship with Police Scotland , I didn’t touch that story with a twenty-foot pole.
Nor did I write the story about how our Supporter Liaison Officer, John Paul Taylor, was hit on the back of the head with a plastic chair that day at Fir Park, although I know two people who witnessed that particular incident.
It was clearly a Celtic fan who did it, but without knowing any other details I wasn’t going to prejudice whatever investigation the club was conducting by splattering it all over social media. I still don’t know the full story, but safe to say that I knew there was a lot more to what happened at the Motherwell game than just some fans on the pitch.
As far as Feyenoord goes, my information is that a flare set something on fire that night – one of those things we keep hearing can never actually happen and where the only surprise is that it doesn’t happen more frequently, and with disastrous consequences, the sort we’ll all be talking about one day and asking “why was this ever allowed to happen?”
I’ve exhausted the subject of away fan tickets for one day, but it should be noted that the Motherwell incident is the kind of thing happens when clubs take selfish decisions and don’t respect the rights of away fans to watch their team.
Understand that I’m not excusing what’s happened here – far from it. Regular readers know I think the lawless element of our support are a stain on the club.
I’m just putting it in context and if you’re going to have the conversation about away fans that has to be part of it.
But I’ll tell you this; as I’ve written previously, it is the behaviour of a certain section of our support which has, in no small way, led to some of the restrictions on away fan tickets at clubs up and down the league which we’ve seen in recent years.
I like to know what other clubs are thinking and part of that is knowing how their fans feel, and the forums of other clubs are filled to the rafters with people sick and tired of Celtic fans and those of the Ibrox club causing problems inside their grounds, or polluting the airwaves with the kind of songs most pubs don’t allow.
If some of these clubs are listening to the increasingly strident tone of their own fans on this matter, it would be churlish and dishonest not to point out that a section of our away fanbase does us no favours whatsoever, and that’s a reality too many people have spent too long ignoring or failing to properly acknowledge.
This has been coming.
It’s almost certain that the banner at the Kilmarnock game has sped it along, but it was in the post, it was being discussed, and the events at Motherwell made it more likely than not that we’d have gotten here regardless.
The Kilmarnock banner raises issues of its own, and gives the board something else to think about.
The certainty of more UEFA’s fines coming our way after the game against Atletico is something they won’t ignore, and can’t ignore.
The way that banner affected one of our own players – someone Celtic has a legal responsibility to by the way – just adds to the sense that this has reached a crisis point and that something’s got to give.
This is not about one thing. This is an accumulation.
We’ve “salami sliced” our way here, and that those running Celtic have finally taken action is not surprising in the least. More surprising, by far, is that it’s taken this long for the penny to drop.
The American author and critical thinker Thomas Schelling wrote in his famous book Arms & Influence about how countries and organisations drift into trouble by allowing an accretion of little things until changes have been made that, had they happened suddenly, would have crossed all manner of red lines.
His analogy is as good as you’re likely to find.
“Tell (a child) not to go in the water and he’ll sit on the bank and submerge his bare feet; he is not yet ‘in’ the water. Acquiesce, and he’ll stand up; no more of him is in the water than before. Think it over, and he’ll start wading, not going any deeper; take a moment to decide whether this is different and he’ll go a little deeper, arguing that since he goes back and forth it all averages out. Pretty soon we are calling to him not to swim out of sight, wondering whatever happened to all our discipline.”
Celtic has seen exactly where this is going and this is the moment they’ve said “stop!” and they are not messing about.
The Green Brigade has made its position clear for the Atletico game.
They will be allowed to attend that one. If I were them, I’d consider the possibility that they are being given the rope to hang themselves with.
Celtic has made its own position clear on what the consequences for any further bad behaviour are likely to be. They have been warned.