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Green Brigade protest over what they see as the criminalisation of the Celtic support

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During Celtic’s 2-0 win over Inverness Caley Thistle today, the Celtic supporter’s group the Green Brigade protested against the new Offensive Behaviour bill. A bill that has been criticised by many in Scottish Football and was eventually postponed before being implemented at the start of the new season, so that it could be looked into more.

The Green Brigade displayed several banners during the game and conducted a self-imposed silent protest until the 50th minute mark.

The group published a statement on there website:

“Today we held a silent and visual protest against the criminalisation of the Celtic support, both from the ‘Offensive Behaviour at Football…’ Bill and the disproportionate policing that we and the wider Celtic support currently face.

While the new legislation will likely have a direct effect on our group – particularly as the Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland are demanding that it specifically refers to banners and displays – it extends beyond just us and all Celtic fans will be affected.

The proposed new legislation denies football fans the right to freedom of expression and treats us all completely differently from others in society. This is despite there being very little disorder at football matches – and certainly far less than at music concerts or at bars and clubs around the country.

It comes on the back of a season when our manager was attacked by bigots because he comes from an Irish nationalist background. The response of the politicians has been to draft a law that, according to Justice Committee chair Christine Graham, is designed to target the Celtic support for our Irish identity and for singing songs in support of Irish nationhood. It looks like the bigots have won.

The protest was a massive step for our group to take. We want nothing more than to back our team for 90 mins and give them our support, especially on the back of defeat at Ibrox last week. But we feel this issue goes far beyond one half of football and that if the Celtic support doesn’t begin to influence the debate around policing and the new law then we, like many other Celtic fans won’t be there to support the team – we’ll be banned and possibly jailed.

In many ways, though, this is already happening. We currently have three members awaiting trial for ‘offences’ committed at the first game of last season. Their alleged crime was holding a a banner that, days later, bigoted elements of the Scotland’s Shame support complained about after seeing on the internet. The case has been doggedly pursued by the Procurator Fiscal, who has appointed a Fiscal more used to murder trials to take charge of the prosecution. We’ve also had members and others in section 111 arrested on made-up charges and instantly banned from every game in Scotland while their case drags on through the legal system – the police don’t even need to consult the courts to do this now.

At every match we’re filmed constantly and subjected to petty intimidation, like strange police officers greeting you by your first name. And it’s not just us – at every away match the police are filming fans coming off buses, in pubs and at stadiums and fans are given full-body searches at grounds. At the recent home game with Motherwell a fan was arrested and dragged out of the main stand by several police officers for singing ‘go home ya huns’. Fans arriving home from Sion in the early hours of the morning were greeted by a welcoming party from Strathclyde Police, there to say hello and take their pictures.

The time has now come for our club to stand up for our fans and use their considerable influence and voice to defend us from disproportionate policing and discriminatory new laws. It is also time for the support to come together and oppose policing and laws that seeks to silence us and treat us as part of a problem that, if it exists, is not of our making.

We won’t roll over to a political agenda that seeks to criminalise us and we call on all fans and fan organisations to join us and protest against the criminalisation of the Celtic support.”

Now let me start by saying that the Green Brigade have provided plenty of colour and atmosphere to Celtic Park, not to mention one or two quality songs such as ‘Just can’t get enough’. Sadly that is where my backing ends, as the Green Brigade along with their tag-along elements continue to peddle the IRA/Republican song book week in week out.

One website – The Celtic Network – who supported the Green Brigade’s protest today, ran a poll in July and published the results on the 2nd of August which showed an overwhelming support for fans NOT to sing IRA songs at Celtic games. 70% of those voted no, while 25% of those polled voted yes, with 5% not sure.

The groups continued singing and love-in with the IRA & Irish Republican movement is or should I say will be in clear violation of the proposed Offensive Behaviour Bill. Peddling such songs and chants as ‘Oo ah up the RA!’, Go on home British soldiers, Boys of the Old Brigade and Bobby Sands – while not sectarian – have no place in our football stadiums. Such songs are classed by some, including the eminent Tom Devine, as political rather than sectarian or bigoted. But that does not make them right either.

They claim that it is a political agenda aiming to criminalise the Celtic support. I’m sorry but despite one comment from Christine Graham MSP, other groups of supporters have looked on the bill as legislation which could target them also, not just Celtic supporters. While some of their points are valid, like football supporters being treated differently – to the likes of fans at music concerts, to rugby fans etc – the fact is the Green Brigade bring all the trouble and focus on themselves.

The poppy day protest, the breaching of stadium regulations by their ‘lateral movements‘, their continued use of flares and smoke bombs in stadiums, again flouting stadium rules and regulations – all because they wish to follow in the footsteps of the ULTRAs on the continent who produce displays and atmospheres that look cool with such pyrotechnics.

And they wonder why the Police are singling them out?

What has the singing of the IRA got to do with Celtic Football Club? What has the singing of the Boys of the Old Brigade got to do with Celtic Football Club? What has the singing of Go on Home British Soldiers got to do with Celtic Football Club? What has Bobby Sands got to do with Celtic Football Club? Such songs have everything to do with Irish politics and history and have no place in SCOTTISH Football stadiums. Even 70% of those fans polled on a website that publicly backs the Green Brigade are against the songs that the group revel in singing during Celtic games.

I wonder why those who published the Green Brigade statement chose to edit it for their websites. For they left out the initial paragraph which stated:

As one of those banned from all Scottish football grounds I wasn’t at the game today but I know the group were delighted with the backing we got from the Celtic support. Here’s our statement on today’s protest.

I wrote an article for my blog on ESPN Soccernet and highlighted the immortal Jock Stein’s own comments in regards to the singing of IRA/Republican songs at Celtic games.

I have lifted a specific quote from that article: “The Greatest EVER Celtic manager Jock Stein – a Protestant – during a game against Stirling Albion at the start of the troubles in Northern Ireland, famously vaulted the perimeter fence to challenge a group of Celtic fans who had been chanting ‘I, I, IRA rule ok!’ and other IRA slogans throughout the first half of the game.

“An eyewitness to this famous event stated that Stein said: ‘The players don’t respond or react to your IRA songs or chants. Keep them for your buses or pubs. You have loads of Celtic songs, sing them and the players will respond better, thank you.’

“For the Second Half of that game, the Celtic fans sang only Celtic songs.”

So while 70% of fans polled on a site backing the GB are against said songs, Jock Stein – Celtic’s Greatest Ever Manager was against said songs, not to mention the majority of Celtic supporters now in the stadium not singing said songs – I find it confusing why the Green Brigade believe that said songs have a place at Celtic Football Club, that they would sing such songs against the club’s wishes, against the opinions of the overwhelming majority of Celtic fans and run the risk of all Celtic fans being tarred with the same brush.

Their statement solely points the group being victimised and tries to hide such a moan within a statement professing that the whole Celtic support are being criminalised. They also claim ‘they are not law breakers’, but the continued flouting and reveling in flouting stadium regulations make them law breakers. They then claim that they ‘deserve to be backed by the rest of the support’ why? What gives them the right to demand that they are backed by the rest of the support?

In my days of going to Celtic Park and other grounds in Scotland, the only individuals who are targeted by Stewards or Police have been drunks, those singing sectarian and racist songs, those causing Health & Safety violations. Obviously one or two will be innocent parties, but the Police and Stewards have been keeping tabs on the Green Brigade for years now because of their continued breaching stadium regulations.

They may want the Celtic support to stand shoulder to shoulder with them, while they pretend to be IRA/Irish Republican luvvies. Some of us go to football stadiums to watch football games to listen to football songs and the banter that surrounds such games, not political songs. The group claim that there is a political agenda from the Scottish government – if they do not want to be part of a political agenda, leave the politics at the turnstiles, celebrate and revel in the football not the politics of a nation, who are themselves trying to put said issues behind them.

I have been outspoken against the Green Brigade for several years now and such criticism is more than warranted in my opinion. I am not targeting the Celtic support as a whole, just the elements who continue to breach the rules and regulations for their own self-centered and egotistical views. Certainly the Green Brigade call on the Celtic support to back them to support them, but woe-betide any fan who does not. They will be labelled not ‘real’ fans, some will be deemed green h*ns, others will be bullied or intimidated and the lucky few will be targeted with all of them.

I for one, hope that the new Offensive Behaviour Bill is passed sooner rather than later, with certain changes first of all. So that such egotistical and ultra-wannabes are weeded out of our game, so that the rest of us can get back to the game of football. Scotland is in the 21st Century, sadly for the Green Brigade and their tag-along IRA/Republican luvvies they are stuck in the 1970s, many of whom weren’t even born then, its brilliant what a few Hollywood movies can do.

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About Author

scotzine

Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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