My Views On The Green Brigade’s Upcoming Boycott
For those of you who may not know, the Green Brigade have recently announced their intention to boycott the next two matches to be held at Celtic Park, when the Hoops are set to face Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Arbroath. They publicised this through the following statement, available here. Around a fortnight ago, the group discussed what they have described as “police harassment” here.
Now, as ever, I should highlight that what follows are my own personal views on this matter.
Groups of ultras, both in Scotland and around the world, tend to regularly find themselves as the subjects of much debate. This is, perhaps, not a surprise. After all, with the colour, noise and general insanity they tend to bring to football stadia, it is difficult for people to miss them.
A certain notoriety also tends to associate itself with the ultras scene. There is a stereotype which suggests that all ultras are nothing other than violent thugs. This is, of course, a ridiculous view. However, it is a popular view nonetheless. A lot of people, especially those who have no interest in football, presume members of these groups are “bad un’s”. Undoubtedly, there are violent groups of ultras to be found around the world. However, the Green Brigade are most certainly not a violent group of individuals.
Yes, they sing. Yes, they stand. Yes, they wave flags. Yes, they unfurl banners. Yes, they jump about. Yes, they indulge in heinous acts of lateral movement and, yes, they have, on occasion, made use of pyrotechnics. And yet, you don’t see them rampaging across the terraces, fighting with police and away supporters, as the previously mentioned stereotype would suggest.
And now, considering the group have no history of violence, you could be forgiven for wondering why the police are so aggressive in their approach to anything regarding them.
I’d be the first to admit that I don’t agree with absolutely everything the Green Brigade have ever done. I’m no ultra. I generally go to the football with my dad, sit, watch the game, sing a bit, and go home. In that sense, I suppose I’m fairly average. However, that’s not to say there’s anything wrong with going up to 111, singing your heart out and jumping about like a lunatic. In fact, I think it’s fantastic.
And so, we come to the main issue itself; the treatment of the group. In the same manner that it is hard for supporters to miss the presence of any ultras, the same seems to apply to the police. I suppose, in one sense, this isn’t a surprise; they’re naturally going to polarise towards any group of fans who seem to be “rowdy” (which wouldn’t be difficult when compared to fans like myself who often sit there fairly quietly).
However, whilst I don’t see anything wrong with police and stewards keeping an eye on the Green Brigade (or any other members of the support), I do have a problem when members of the police force decide it’s acceptable to harass innocent people without reason.
The “All Cops Are Bastards” chants make me cringe. I won’t try to deny that. Personally, I know a couple of police officers, and they’re lovely people. To paint them all with the same brush is naive, and to sing about the police only adds to the risk of confrontation. However, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel intimidated at times by other members of the police force, especially as a young man.
I have no problems with random searches on the way into nightclubs or concerts, and sporting events are no different in this regard. Normally, these searches are carried out by stewards, and are nothing more than a quick pat down. No complaints there, at least not from myself.
However, as a fifteen year old, I approached the turnstiles before only my second Glasgow Derby at Celtic Park. On this occasion, a police officer clearly decided I looked worthy of some suspicion and I soon had both hands up against the wall for a full search; body frisk, as well as every pocket emptied out. All of this occurred in front of the rest of the Celtic support wandering along Janefield Street, and I found it to be both embarrassing and intimidatory at the same time.
How does this relate to the Green Brigade you ask? Well, ask yourself this; how often do you get searched when entering Celtic Park? Occasionally? Once in a blue moon? Never? I’m fairly sure none of these answers apply to you if you find yourself with a season ticket for section 111, because these individuals are subjected to searches on virtually every occasion they enter the stadium. In fact, they are often searched on multiple occasions.
The Green Brigade have never used pyrotechnics inside Celtic Park, and yet even fairly recently (before the derby matches of old), the electronic signs informing everyone that fireworks were prohibited inside the stadium were there to see.
Increasingly, stories are coming to light of members being arrested and harassed for nothing. The fact that all of the court cases cited by the group have resulted in “not proven” or “not guilty” verdicts tells it’s own story. If the police are to arrest you, they should do so when they believe you are guilty of a crime to warrant such an arrest. Some of the stories, particularly that regarding a woman being accused of crimes in Italy when she was, in fact, in Glasgow watching the television, are frankly farcical.
I have no problems with the police arresting someone who is committing a crime. After all, their job is to protect those around them. However, until such a crime is being committed, the police should leave the public in peace.
And so, we find ourselves in a situation where section 111 will lie empty for two consecutive matches at Celtic Park. This has, unsurprisingly, caused a fair bit of debate within the Celtic support. Many support the group’s decision, and, equally well, many believe it is the wrong move, and that they should be there backing the team to the hilt as they normally do.
However, I feel we should attempt to look at this objectively. The Green Brigade have had a presence at almost every Celtic match, both home and away, for years. Many of their members attend virtually every match every season. Love them or loathe them, they do everything they can to support Celtic Football Club. For these reasons, it would be naive to think that the Green Brigade and it’s members would happily miss any Celtic match, big or small. It is clear that they have not taken this decision lightly.
Fundamentally, whether or not you support the Green Brigade in their decision to boycott the next two home matches is entirely up to yourself. It would be rich of me to sit here and believe that I have some sort of divine right to tell you that I am right, and you are wrong. It would be both crazy and selfish, and therefore I am not doing that.
However, I do hope that this article will highlight the fact the boycott has been called if nothing else.
I will say this though.
No supporter, regardless of whether they are a member of the Green Brigade, or someone who rarely opens their mouth and just enjoys the footballing spectacle in front of them, should ever have wholly false accusations made against them by members of the police force.
No supporter, regardless of whether they are a member of the Green Brigade, or someone who takes their children to watch a football match, should be led away and arrested for merely having a bottle of water in their possession inside a football stadium.
And no supporter, regardless of whether they are a member of the Green Brigade, or a supporter sitting inside an executive box, should have their enjoyment of a football match spoiled time and time again just because they happen to occupy a seat in a particular section of the ground.