Given the high profile incidents in football regarding censorship of songs and banners, Celtic supporters club, ‘The Celtic Trust’ have responded with their opinion on how things stand at Celtic, why there’s no need for draconian law enforcement, and why Celtic always has, and always will be a club that opens it’s doors to all.
Before every home game at Celtic Park the Stadium announcer reminds us that “Celtic was founded in 1888 as a club for all”, and invites us to remember and celebrate that heritage. I imagine that all Celtic supporters are happy to do just that, but recent events have shown that there is sometimes a wide gulf between aspiration and realisation. The main problem with being a member of such a ‘broad church’ is that the legitimate opinions and views of each member have to be respected and accepted even by those who might hold contrary views and opinions. That does pose problems for some supporters and indeed for the Club officials, the very people who presumably sanction the match day announcement. It is no easy matter to embrace Voltaire’s maxim “I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. It is challenging, and for some, a bridge too far.
Differing opinions are part of the very fabric of football. Put a dozen football supporters in a room and they will come up with a dozen different opinions. Growing up in a Celtic supporting family and living close to Celtic Park, I have abiding memories of uncles and other male relatives congregating in our house around tea-time on home match days (before the days when women at football was as widespread). Discussion mainly centred around that afternoon’s match and regularly one of those present would demand of another with whom he had walked to and from the ground and stood beside on the terracing “Wur you even at the gemme?” Ah yes, reasoned debate was alive and well!
Add to these historic tendencies the implications of the recently passed draconian “Offensive Behaviour at Football/Threatening Communications” legislation and we entering into uncharted waters. The trouble with concepts like “offensive behaviour” is that like individual viewpoints it is very subjective and open to many interpretations. For example UEFA, admittedly aided and abetted by one of Strathclyde’s finest (and perhaps a certain Chief Exec.) deemed as ‘illicit’, one phrase in a nonsense song, while the serried ranks of the Strathclyde force failed to find anything offensive or illicit, in 120 minutes of sustained sectarian/racist chanting and indeed had their Assistant Chief Constable and a government minister laud the wonderful atmosphere created. I don’t know why but the words “double standards” spring to mind!
Now something I personally find offensive is the current assault on the English language and in particular the use and abuse of a word which was originally a verb but is now used as a noun, an adjective and indeed any other part of speech you care to name. You know the one I mean…starts with an ‘f’ ends with a ‘k’, has four letters..aye that one. It is heard on every street, every bus, in shops, during most conversations, and even, I suspect within Lennoxtown and the hallowed corridors of Celtic Park. Yet when that word appeared on a banner in an Italian football stadium it unleashed a great wave of shock and hysteria. Now I happen to think that the aforementioned banner was at best ill advised, and at worst, like the word itself, crass and inappropriate, but it did not merit the hysterical, hypocritical, and completely disproportionate reaction and from the same folk who seemed happy to accept, without challenge or sanction, unfounded accusations against their own fans made by our national broadcaster.
And of course the banner was blamed on the much maligned section of the Celtic support, The Green Brigade. I do not know to what extent this group were responsible, if at all. However one thing I am sure of is, that without the Green Brigade, the match day experience at Celtic Park would be much poorer, dire even. They bring colour and noise and support the team no matter what kind of football is being served up on the pitch. If the thunder has returned to Celtic Park it is largely due to them. And it is great to hear songs about individual players re-emerging, something which has been sadly missing since the days of the King of Kings and Big Bad John. Oh there was the one about the Holy Goalie, I suppose, but didn’t it contain that dreaded word as well?
Much has been made of other songs sung by the Green Brigade and this has has given rise to debate on what songs may or may not be appropriate in a football setting. My view is that we are often told that we are all members of the ‘Celtic Family’, and in my experience the best families sort out any problem and reach a consensus within the family. We do not want or need those from outside who have no concept of, nor any empathy with, our origins and heritage to impose their views on us. Nor do we need that imposition to come from Club officials who seem to think that by dancing to the tune of these outsiders they will gain their acceptance and favour. Poor deluded souls that they are! Don’t they know that sufferance is the best they can hope for and even that will be grudged?
I suggest that it is now time for all who love Celtic and have the well being of the Club at heart to engage in this debate. To ensure that this is successful we must respect and tolerate all shades of opinion and it may be that each of us will have to give a little to gain a lot.
Celtic was formed out of an impoverished marginalised community but those people had the vision and the humanity to include everyone. Surely we, inheritors of that vision have the capacity to find a consensus which recognises our origins and history while at the same time excludes no one from ‘Glasgow’s green and white’?