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Are Celtic responsible for Police targeting their own fans?

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After the weekend statement from the Celtic supporters group, the Green Brigade, on what they deemed ‘oppressive police tactics’, a Celtic supporters club have issued a statement which infers that according to a serving Police officer, Celtic are allegedly responsible for fans being victimised and banned from Parkhead.

In a statement published online, Govan Emerald Celtic Supporters Club stated that Police ‘are simply acting on the information being supplied to them by Celtic’ and are ‘chasing up Celtic fans and/or members of the Green Brigade….at the request of the club’.

The CSC statement read: “A member of our club is currently serving a 2 year football banning order which is under appeal at the High Court in Edinburgh. As is common practice, those under football banning orders are frequently visited by the police in the lead-up to football matches to ensure and remind them that they should stay away from the forthcoming match or face arrest. Our member had the pleasure last week of having two police officers visit his home on Wednesday and the same again on Thursday to warn against attending both the Aberdeen and Benfica fixtures.

“Rightfully believing this level of attention to be wholly unnecessary, our member visited Helen Street Police Station to complain. It was what the police said next which is most important – should they be telling the truth that is. They claimed that they had received a phone call from Jamie Church (Celtic security) who had advised them that our member was planning on going to Lisbon for the Benfica match – he was not. This would have been a difficult task for him regardless considering Strathclyde Police were actually holding his passport until this impromptu meeting.

“Further still, the police officer expanded by claiming that they are simply acting on the information being supplied to them by Celtic. The Officer stated that they really aren’t interested in chasing up Celtic fans and/or members of the Green Brigade however are doing so at the request of the club. The officer went on to claim that Celtic want to see an end to any Republican songs being aired at Celtic matches. However to actually come out and say so could potentially cause upset with a large percentage of the support. Instead Celtic are working with Strathclyde Police in going after individuals one by one in an attempt to secure bans.

“While we obviously hope for this information to be untrue or at worst twisted we believe it to be a worrying development and it is in the best interest of the Celtic support for it to be public knowledge. It is even more concerning when considering how this information fits in with what the Green Brigade have already told us regarding how their members are currently being targeted.

“The Govan Emerald CSC and The Temple Tims CSC gives its unequivocal support to the Green Brigade in their current struggle against the police, and indeed any other Celtic supporters currently being harassed or victimised. We call on Celtic to distance themselves from the above claims and going forward to do far more to defend the people who are the very lifeblood of our great club.”

The Green Brigade have already issued a statement to boycott two home league matches due to what they perceived as the Police clamping down on them, but if it is the club that are targeting individual fans as well as the group itself then the club could face further boycotting of games as well as protests inside and outside of grounds on an increasingly larger scale.

The group had previously opposed the chairmanship of Dr. John Reid over political issues, but if the issues are now much closer to home and much more personally – the hanging of a banner upside down in protest – is the least that the club and primarily its board could face.

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Only ten days ago, the club were celebrating a famous victory over arguably, the Greatest team in the world – Barcelona. Pre-match the Green Brigade had organised a mass display that enveloped Celtic Park on all sides, that display was lauded by the club who later declared: “The atmosphere at Celtic Park was always going to be special for the UEFA Champions League clash between Celtic and Barcelona, but the pre-match display by supporters in the stadium was the most incredible sight. Organised by the Green Brigade, the display paid tribute to the club´s 125th anniversary, which was marked on November 6, exactly 125 years to the day that the club was formed at St Mary´s parish in the East End of Glasgow. And the stunning card display was the perfect start to the most amazing night at Paradise.”

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell later declared: “Last night was once again a tremendous Champions League occasion and one which has resonated around the world,” he said.”We always say there is no place like Celtic Park and last night proved that beyond any doubt. It was quite simply a unique occasion for the world to witness. It was an example of all that Celtic stands for – our passion, our togetherness and our spirit.

“….I would like to congratulate and thank our supporters. Like our players, each and every supporter gave their all last night. Before, during and after the match, the support for the team was absolutely incredible. During the latter stages of the match it was our supporters who once again drove the team on to victory. It was clear to see and clear to hear, when our team was up against it, our fans once again rose and carried the team forward.

“On behalf of the club I sincerely thank all of our supporters for making last night such a fantastic occasion and we hope there are many more like it.”

And during the recent club AGM, Celtic chairman Ian Bankier stated that the ‘supporters have been magnificent’ that they have ‘conducted themselves with dignity, humour. They have been noisy, colourful. They have been great’.

A Shareholder did raise concerns with the board during the AGM, and Lawwell stated that the board had been made aware of incidents and are investigating them, he also called on any fans who felt threatened or victimised to contact the club with their issues.

If the allegations are true, that the club are using the police and stewards to get rid of fans they do not want in the ground for one reason or another, then it could see the SPL league leaders face hostility from their fan base over the treatment handed out by stewards and police at every home game and the apparent two-faced politics on show from the board.

Although if Police officers are claiming that the club are responsible for their tactics, then it could cause bother not only between the club and Strathclyde Police, but could add to the tension and attitude towards officers on match day duty.

Celtic were unavailable for comment on the matter.

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About Author

Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and Women's Football Weekly. He produces the Scottish Football show The Final Whistle for Pulse 98.4FM and is the ESPN blogger for Celtic FC. He works on a freelance basis and has contributed to the Daily Record, The Scotsman, the Daily Mail and also blogs at Huffington Post UK.

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