Bills, Thrills & Bellyaches

Introducing Hitthebyline.com’s first guest contributor, Celtic fan Felix O’Neill. In his first piece, Mr O’Neill discusses the seemingly never-ending political and legal wrangles that the Glasgow giants seem to be engulfed by, and how the fighting off the field may be detracting from the potential fighting spirit shown on it…..

Bills, Thrills & Bellyaches

by Felix O’Neill

On the day after the ‘Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill’ became a reality, I find myself exhausted with some of the internet bluster being spouted by a section of the Celtic diaspora. We can argue for the rest of this season and beyond about the nonsensical reasons behind regurgitating an anti-sectarian bill already in existence, who is right & who is wrong, what songs are political, sectarian or simply just offensive and indeed how the authorities intend to go about enforcing law. A law itself that is about as robust as Craig Whyte’s financial guarantees for Rangers existence beyond the Hogmanay bells.

As someone who stood on the Jungle and sang songs from the Rebel repertoire in my youth, it would be hypocritical of me to demand the guy sitting next to me to zip-it, however now with the new legislative implications and recent UEFA fine, it is clear that there are consequences for chanting these songs in a sporting arena. With that in mind, I don’t think it is unreasonable for those who want to sing these songs to confine it to a private Celtic supporter pub/club/bus. That is if you care about upholding the uniqueness & moral fibre of Celtic Football Club and if you yourself want to avoid porridge.

Last season there was good reason to fight for justice on a number of fronts as we tackled institutional bias from the Footballing Association, partial referees, and, the unfair treatment of our manager. This culminated in a joyous celebration of supporter unity at Hampden Park where we lifted the Scottish Cup. The days and months since has seen the development of a worrying trend.

My plea is towards a minority of Celtic bloggers/supporter associations who in my view have undertaken self-promoted roles as social media agitators and have corralled sections of the Celtic support into adapting myopic positions that sit uncomfortably with the ethos of the club. Opinion and debate is one thing, but I would argue that the dogmatic positioning of some Celtic bloggers and associations, on a variety of Celtic related issues, helps foster a notion of us as the perpetually afflicted and constantly taking the moral high ground. Unfortunately, once it has filtered through social media, into the pubs and stadiums , the fall out is a section of the support who feel aggrieved without properly weighing up both sides of the argument.

The concern for me is that we very quickly find ourselves in a vicious circle whereby the energy of the Celtic support is pre-dominantly invested on administrative/legislative/internal club battles away from the pitch and we lose sight of the real battle on the pitch to help the 11 men in the Hoops over the finishing line and into first place. I have no doubts that the shenanigans of last season were instrumental in us finishing as runners up in the SPL. My biggest fear is that we take our eye off the ball again with this season’s side show and invest time and energy in defending the right to sing songs/stories from across the sea that have an increasingly distant link to the emergent Celtic story. By all means we should acknowledge and celebrate our proud Irish heritage and all the other components that make up the unique Celtic DNA, however, let us have perspective and concentrate on the team on the park so that our club can flourish in May.

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