If you read Celtic’s statement yesterday carefully, you’ll see two things.
The first is that the club won agreement from the SPFL that safety has to be at the centre of the fan experience, and so in some ways they’ve taken our side in the debate. The second part of the statement is an actual refutation of the Ibrox one, in which they claim to have gone into the meeting well prepared for every aspect of it whereas we offered no case of our own.
Our statement told the media that was a lie, not that the media bothered to report it that way.
I have little doubt that, unlike them, we went into that meeting with our guns loaded.
They simply believed in their own entitlement. There are plenty of people at Hampden who would bend over backwards to help Ibrox, but even those people cannot act on their behalf if Ibrox has behaved with thorough stupidity and assumed that wouldn’t matter.
And it is obvious that’s exactly how they did behave in this case.
Did they assume we would just roll over? Why would we? Did they think the minute this went before the SPFL that we would simply hold up our hands and give them what they wanted?
We are in the right, and our stance has been consistent throughout. We have mirrored their actions precisely. Until now. That’s what’s made this so interesting.
Our concerns over safety at Ibrox have been on the record for months. We were never going to simply walk away from this fight; this is the fight we chose after all.
This is where we drew the line in the sand … but although Ibrox probably expected us to fight on that line they probably never believed we would step across to hit back at them.
Their statement is one of disbelief, the fury of a bully who got in someone’s face and got a sock on the jaw for doing it. It’s one thing for our club to reciprocate. It’s another for us to rip this issue from their hands, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.
We’ve also gotten the discussion started, properly, at the executive level, about the need to tighten up what “reasonable allocation” means and that could be a significant step towards a final resolution on our terms. There is a meeting, and a vote, about this next month.
More than anything though, this makes the Ibrox club look weak in their own house and their spin on this didn’t help. “We told on the bad people but nobody is going to punish the bad people for being bad” isn’t a great line to be pushing, is it?
They look and sound pathetic.
They have no recourse and they know it … what’s more, their fans know it and whilst some of them are labelling the SPFL corrupt and Celtic charlatans, others are questioning just why their club is meekly rolling over and accepting this. The answer is obvious; what choice do they have? None and they know it, and the longer this drags on now the worse they will look.
Their colossal failure to recognise how we would respond at every step along the way here is what has ultimately led them to this humiliation.
When they introduced the cut some years ago, we were clear on how we’d respond. Did they believe us? I guess not, and before they knew it, we’d done exactly what we threatened to do.
So, did they learn from that? No, and two seasons ago they dangled 700 tickets in front of us for the first game at Ibrox and then withdrew them on the spurious grounds that we had refused to “guarantee” them a similar number. They knew we weren’t in any position to offer them such a guarantee because COVID was still raging and a lockdown was possible.
And what do you know? There had to be one. The match at Celtic Park was actually suspended and rescheduled for February as a result.
So, our stance had been entirely right, and to cap it we played a blinder in getting out our press release calling on the SPFL to reschedule the match from New Years. By the time it came around, we were in a position to go top with new signings bedded into the team.
Their decision not to give us tickets was justified to the SPFL on the grounds of COVID restrictions and the need to create a “safe zone”; see how they changed the story depending on the audience?
But we then made sure they had no tickets for the rescheduled derby … again, we’d warned them of the consequences of their behaviour and they took the chance that we were bluffing. And we were not bluffing. Not one of them was in our house that night, and we’d telegraphed that to them well in advance. They played their cards and we played ours.
Nine months ago, after we’d made our concerns over safety at Ibrox clear, we refused an allocation for their ground and made it plain that we wouldn’t go back until they protected our fans.
They then brazenly lied to the press, which swallowed every word, about how a “mutual decision” by both clubs, to refuse tickets for the last two games, had been taken. The press swallowed that. What they didn’t expect was that we would keep the pressure on.
And they certainly didn’t expect that we’d turn the pressure dial up. But we did.
Every time they’ve escalated this issue, they’ve done so in the apparent belief that we would either be rendered powerless to act by the relentless media pressure that’s been put on us, or by football governors who aren’t fit for purpose.
Perhaps they even think our club is tired of this whole affair and wants to put it to bed. We have better – more important – things to be doing with our time than attending stupid SPFL meetings on crap like this.
But we’re not going anywhere until there’s a solution to this, and one that gives us a minimum ticket assurance that not only satisfies Celtic but makes the fixture at their ground safer.
If that doesn’t happen our fans will not be at Ibrox next season and nor will theirs be at Celtic Park. Our club is no longer doing this dance of responding to them … we’ve been proactive this time and shown them up. That’s the reason for their foot stamping fury.
For once in this affair, this is us on the attack and they are flapping because they never expected that and don’t know what to do. Their statement reeked of their powerlessness. It was a kid throwing a temper tantrum because he can’t have what he wants.
Ibrox is big and aggressive and talks tough as long as nobody stands up to them, and then like every bully they slink back on their heels and look for the nearest exit. Now that Celtic has gone on the offensive, at last, we’ll see them for what they really, and what they know they are and so will their fans; too scared to fight because they’re too weak to win.
It’s best not to start what you’re not able to finish.