The question must be posed, why are Fans against Criminalisation against their group members giving the views of the group and the Celtic support to the rest of Scotland?
Scotland Tonight presenter John MacKay commented on his twitter account tonight: “For those of you expecting to Jeannette Findlay on @scotlandtonight discussing IRA songs at Parkhead, she has pulled out at late notice. She says there is “no ear for the debate” and the group she represents did not want her to appear. She was supposed to appear as a member of the group Fans Against Criminalisation.”
Jeanette Findlay courted controversy in 2007 when she appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live backing the singing of Pro-IRA songs, on the day that a football anti-bigotry initiative was launched at Hampden Park.
On that show she said: “The club was founded to help the poor Irish immigrants to Scotland. Many of the supporters are descendants of these people. They may take a particular view of history, what happened in Ireland, which is different to many other people. So I don’t call those pro-terrorist songs.”
She said that the chants were “songs from a war of independence going back over a hundred years” and added: “I think what history tells us is that it’s actually facile to say that politics and sport will ever be separated. Throughout history, sports events are used often as a means of expressing political views, political identity.”
In a recent twitter conversation I was informed that the Green Brigade – an integral part of Fans against Criminalisation – was the heart and soul of Celtic Football Club. I was also informed that without the Green Brigade there would be no Paradise, no atmosphere and one individual even claimed that without the Pro-IRA songs that the Irish fans would not return to Celtic Park.
Joe O’Rourke, general secretary of the Celtic Supporters Association said earlier today: “It would appear that we are now under full scale attack from the Scottish Government, the Judiciary, and the Police, not forgetting the SPL and UEFA.
“It seem to me that the interference of Match Commander Eddie Smith is particularly sinister; it’s been said that reporting to UEFA direct is common practice; if that’s the case then show us the statistics; how many times has it happened in the past? And which team; or teams were involved?
“I would suggest that this is the next step by Alex Salmond in his campaign to impose on us the completely unnecessary new legislation regarding behaviour at football matches; and it would appear he is being abetted by the Lord Advocate Frank Mullholland and the Police.
“I firmly believe there is far too much political interference in the policing strategy for football matches; that would appear to be the case in the Prosecuting Fiscal’s Office as well; is this brave new Scotland being twinned with China; or North Korea? Are we not the same support; singing the same songs; that won both the UEFA and FIFA Fair Play Awards in 2003; just what exactly has changed?
“I would be happy to have a debate with the Club and the other Celtic supporters groups on the issue of singing; but I’m not prepared to stand back and watch a generation of young Celtic fans be criminalised for supporting their team. The Celtic fans will have to stand up and oppose these unprecedented attacks on our supporters; trying to bully us into submission will not work; that has been tried for over one hundred and twenty years; it failed then; and it will fail now.”
It is interesting that O’Rourke states that he would be happy to have a debate with the club and other Celtic supporters groups, its a bit like preaching to the converted isn’t it? Why not tackle the subject matter on a mainstream television programme to get the word out on why the group is protesting.
How many fans turned up at George Square the other week for the protest? 500, 600 possibly 700? How many turned up at the public meeting the other day there to hear the speakers? No more than 50? So the decision by Fans against Criminalisation to block Jeanette Findlay’s appearance on Scotland Tonight, alongside Michael Kelly could be seen as a PR faux pas for their organisation and cause. Free publicity ladies and gentlemen to a wider audience.
Regular readers of Scotzine will know that we recorded a special edition of The Final Whistle dedicated solely to the Offensive Behaviour in Football Bill. We were in contact with fans groups, including the Celtic Trust, the CSA and Fans against Criminalisation and with each correspondence we hit a brick wall. Stating that they did not have the time, they did not know who they would send, then they stated they would send a statement – which would never materialise.
Now we are certainly not trying to claim we are a big business or a massive media outlet, as we are none of those things, however given that we have listeners who are interested in such an issue – why feel the need to accept invitations or promise statements, then renege on them later? When a website and football show like ours can get two leading MSPs, the head of Strathclyde Police’s unit to tackle sectarianism and Nil by Mouth’s campaign director – you have to wonder what the fans have to hide? Do the fans know that their case is a losing battle and just want to beat their drums peddling the ‘everyone is picking on us’ excuse without actually taking part in a meaningful discussion with the individuals they claim are against them, that they claim are anti-catholic, anti-irish and trying to equalise the punishment handed out so that they are on par with rival Rangers fans.
We will be recording Part Three of our Offensive Behaviour Bill special on Saturday with Fans having their say, it would be interesting to see if between then and now if Fans against Criminalisation issue a statement on why they rejected their chance to attend a mainstream programme that could have boosted their campaign.