There’s a wonderful Magnetic Fields song called “You Must Be Out Of Your Mind.”
Stephen Merrit’s lyrics are typically brilliant; in the first verse, the narrator tells his former beloved “I want you crawling back to me, down on your knees yeah …” and that’s a little bit like the message Celtic has sent The Green Brigade this evening, via its letter to season ticket holders.
“You think you can leave the past behind? You must be out of your mind. You think you can simply press rewind? You must be out of your mind …”
Yeah, Celtic’s email update to fans on the situation spelled out exactly what The Green Brigade has to do to get back into Celtic Park. They have to toe the line. They have to be willing to get in sync with every other supporter. They’re being told to crawl, basically.
Because that’s the one thing these guys have hitherto been unwilling to do. Celtic knows this. Celtic is well aware of it. Their email to fans is smart in that it lays out, for the second time, the reasons why the ban has been imposed.
But in setting terms for their return, Celtic looks reasonable and measured in offering an olive branch whilst also reminding people it doubles as a big stick. That may be all the club needs.
On top of that, there was a little bit of “divide and conquer” in the message; the club has offered talks to anyone who wants to disassociate from the group, and you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be at least a few who do, having realised that the club is not messing about here and has every intention of seeing through its decision.
So those who the club deems suitably humble will get to come back at some point, but they seem determined to break up the seating arrangements that allowed these guys to congregate in one spot. Some people are being offered relocations, which suggests that the club sees the Green Brigade as yesterday’s news, and want to drive that point across.
I could be misreading this, but I don’t think so. The club has offered talks, yes, and whether that’s for show or if they intend it to be real, I think it’s clear that they are saying “we are in charge” and they intend to make it stick.
The really interesting thing is that the club has come out fighting. There has been a lot of disinformation on the forums and elsewhere about the initial decision and they want to correct the record. How successful that will be is very much up in the air, and I expect a Green Brigade statement hitting back at what they’ve said today … and that will just make it harder for there to be some kind of peace deal here. I think that’s unlikely anyway.
But the club wants certain things known. They want it known that the ban was to do with general behaviour rather than anything to do with the Palestinian flag. They want it known that there is an issue with flags, but just not those. The flags they refer to, the terrorist flags, I’ve written about already; those of the PFLP, who took part in 7 October massacre and who are banned by the EU, the US and a host of other national governments.
They do not accept the existence of Israel. They do not seek a peaceful negotiation with Israel. They are on the extremes of the Palestinian cause … and The Green Brigade flew their banner. That’s not up for debate. That’s a fact. The club has footage of it.
They also want to bring attention back to the number of incidents which have nothing to do with flags or banners, but are more representative of hooliganism. The club has expressed its disgust that people have sought to minimise these incidents, and I know what they mean because I’ve seen that view expressed across social media as if it was nothing.
Celtic says it has the evidence which proves that these guys have done everything Celtic’s dossier says and a lot more besides. Investigations are still ongoing.
There is still nonsense being written about how the club failed to respond to charges that our fans were antisemites. The club did respond to that. I have the email from them. Some have erroneously claimed that all the outlets got their quote from the same source – the CeltsAreHere article which I linked to in my piece – but actually, as my article makes plain, a host of fan media outlets, as well as a handful of mainstream publications, got the same statement, and I still have my copy of it.
Celtic’s response may not have been delivered in a way some people wanted but it’s a barefaced lie to say that they didn’t respond at all, and that response is in the public domain.
The club’s attempt tonight to sort out the fact from the fiction – and there is a ton of fiction out there, and a lot of Whataboutery in which I have zero interest – may succeed or it may fail; I don’t actually think it will matter much either way. The club is holding all the cards, as some us have said from the start, and they are proceeding as such.
If certain people thought they were bluffing, or would be forced to a humiliating climb-down here they are wrong. The only way those who are banned return under their own names is if they agree to accept the rules of the house, otherwise they’re done.
That’s the headline here; Celtic is laying down the law, from a position of strength. They’ve laid it all out in detail, including the road to a resolution. For some people it will involve getting down on bended knees.