A fan makes a monkey gesture or a monkey noise at an opposition player who happens to be black – said fan is banned for life by the club. Fans sing offensive songs and are huckled out by stewards or police and face jail time as well as stadium bans. Now Leigh Griffiths is facing not only an investigation by Celtic and by the Scottish FA, he is also on the wrong end of a Police investigation over allegations of him singing a racist chant about Rudi Skacel.
IF found guilty, Griffiths must be punished as harshly as the club would with fans. They cannot simply hit him with a fine and ask him to hold up a red bit of paper with ‘Give Racism the Red Card’ on it. For a club established to alleviate the poor in the east end of Glasgow and primarily those refugees from Ireland escaping the Irish Potato famine, it would be shameful if Celtic merely slapped a fine on the player, while the Scottish FA could ultimately hit the player with a lengthy match ban.
In my opinion, if Griffiths is found guilty of racist chanting then Peter Lawwell and Neil Lennon must cut their losses and sack the former Hibernian striker for gross misconduct. There is no excuse for racist chanting – whether it was sung for five seconds or five minutes – and there will be no excuse for backing a player guilty of racist chanting simply because of the club he plays for.
Some Celtic fans are giving their 100% backing to Griffiths, even if he is found guilty, all because he wears the Hoops. Some of these individuals have attacked and abused fellow Celtic supporters who have condemned and demanded Griffiths’ sacking over this affair, labelling them part of the PC Brigade or not proper Celtic fans.
These bunch of abusers celebrate Celtic’s rich history and traditions, they also celebrate the Irish immigrant aspect of the club’s history and they also regularly condemn those Rangers fans who sing The Famine Song. How it would be so different if it was a Rangers player singing about Anthony Stokes, his Irish nationality and labelling him an effing refugee. They would be in uproar, demand the player sacked as well as hung, drawn and quartered. That is the nature of the beast in Scottish football, rivals will attack and condemn the other side, but when one of their own does it – for the most part they back the perpetrator to the hilt.
This is not the first incident Griffiths has been involved in and given his penchant for getting into trouble, it won’t be his last. IF Griffiths is found guilty of the allegations he is on the receiving end of, then Celtic must take the same hardline stance as they would with any fan singing a racist chant or song – by kicking him out of the club for good.
Celtic doing it is a different matter altogether and I cannot see them simply ripping up Griffiths’ contract even if he is found guilty. They will talk about re-educating the player, he will be hit with a fine and that will be his lot from Celtic. If the Scottish FA find him guilty then he will be hit with a match ban, but they will also face the wrath of those abusers who will claim that they are anti-Celtic.
Manager Neil Lennon recently said: “There is a police investigation going on and we are doing our own internal investigation as well and they will run parallel with each other and we will take a line from the police on that as well.
“I have spoken to Peter and he has spoken to me about what is going and on and we will deal with it as it comes.
“It will be a joint decision, I would imagine. We will talk it through like we always do with every situation that crops up and we’ll deal with it in the way we think is the best for Celtic and what we think is the best going forward.
“He has a few adverse headlines over the few weeks, but he is our player, my player and if there is a part of re-education or education or educating him the right way then we will do that.”
What is best for Celtic? Ditching Griffiths or keeping him and then be subjected to more negative press when [not if]he crosses that line again?
Against Motherwell some fans booed Griffiths, but others chanted ‘Leigh Griffiths sings what he wants’. Whatever decision Celtic make it must be the right one, one that does not make a mockery out of their ‘social charter’ and unacceptable conduct policies.
As the Celtic website states: “The Club has a wider role and the responsibility of being a major Scottish social institution promoting health, well-being and social integration.”
What message will the club be setting if they do not take the necessary action against one of their own players for racist chanting?
“Celtic Football Club is for people who want to support a football club that strives for excellence in Scotland and in Europe, is proud of its history, supportive of its local community and seeks to support the following aims: ‘To maximise all opportunities to disassociate the Club from sectarianism and bigotry of any kind. To promote Celtic as a Club for all people, regardless of gender, age, religion, race or ability.’”
If he is guilty then the axe must be wielded, but if he is innocent of all charges then he must keep his head down, his nose clean and be the model professional from now on.