Feb 172013
 

Thoughts On The Event, And The Ensuing Debates

 

111

 

Yesterday, as the vast majority of you will no doubt know, Celtic hammered Dundee United by six goals to two (a scoreline that will make many of you smile, I’m sure) at Celtic Park. Whilst the performance on the field was very impressive, and the team were cheered on by a fairly full stadium, there was something missing…or should that be “somebody” missing?

Yes, as mentioned in the title of this article, the increasingly famous Section 111 at Celtic Park lay empty for the entirety of yesterday afternoon, without any prior warning from it’s usual occupants, the Green Brigade. As several of you may have noticed, I’ve not became involved in any of the ensuing arguments regarding this event. As the proverbial fire-storm raged on Twitter, and across much of the Celtic supporting online world, I chose to take a step back, and wait for some clarity to emerge before throwing in my “two cents”.

Now, before we dive into the inevitable discussion, let’s stop for a moment to consider the group in question. The Green Brigade are, fundamentally, Celtic supporting ultras. This does not mean that they are hooligans, as a certain stereotype would suggest, and I feel I should stress that they have absolutely no track record of violence.

Across Europe, and the world, there are groups of football ultras with violent pasts. In some places, the line between “ultra” and “hooligan” is a rather blurry one, but in Scotland, and in the case of the Green Brigade, the aforementioned line is distinct, and it is not one which has been crossed.

And yet, whenever there is a case of violence within the Celtic support, many people in this country are very quick to point fingers in the group’s direction. If we consider the recent example of the “riots” at Dens Park on Boxing Day, 2012, several individuals quickly cited the Green Brigade (and/or it’s members) as the reason for any trouble, without any proof whatsoever. Of course, these accusations were proven to be wholly untrue.

However, taking a look at the word, “ultra”, dictionary.com states that it is a word with the following meanings:

 

“1. going beyond what is usual or ordinary; excessive; extreme (adjective).

2. an extremist, as in politics, religion, fashion, etc (noun).”

 

The Green Brigade openly describe themselves as “ultras”, so it’s reasonable to consider them as such. By their very nature, they are hardcore Celtic supporters, who happen to be rather vocal not only in football grounds across the country, but in the views they hold regarding various issues, such as standing at football matches in Scotland, the use of pyrotechnics, and politics.

 

 

As a group who hold publicly hold such views, it is inevitable that, when we consider a fan base as large as the Celtic support, there will be differences of opinion. This is not to say that one side are right, and the other wrong; far from it in fact. However, it is something which we must all learn to accept. It is far better, and significantly more progressive, to discuss any issues we may have as a fan base, openly and calmly. When it comes to issues regarding the Green Brigade, there are sections of the Celtic support who are all too quick to jump on the proverbial bandwagon. I’m sure the group themselves would admit they are not perfect – none of us are – but for people to pretend that they are either impervious to sin, or bastions of wrongdoing, is utterly nonsensical.

We must address each issue as it comes along, and that has, and will always continue to be, my approach when dealing with incidents such as that which occurred yesterday. A level of controversy will always come with “ultras”. In the past, I have criticised some things which the group have done, but more often than not, I have found myself praising them highly. Whilst personally I have disagreed with incidents such as the “bloodstained poppy” banner of November 2010, I remain in awe of the noise, colour, and general craziness they consistently bring to matches at Celtic Park, and other venues across Scotland and Europe.

The effort these people put into supporting Celtic is gargantuan in it’s scale, regardless of whether it is jumping about singing for ninety minutes, or creating one of the countless memorable banners we have all enjoyed and photographed, and that effort should not be roundly ignored by some people. Yes, they can be controversial, and no, they should not be free from criticism, but no one, and I mean no one, can criticise them for any lack of effort or love for the team we all hold so dear. For people to suggest that the group didn’t attend the Dundee United match because they “like the attention” or because they were “throwing the dummy out of the pram” is just ridiculous.

With regards to the events of yesterday, details were sketchy at first. Initially, I heard a rumour of drums not being allowed in, resulting in a boycott. This story then evolved into a banner, and not drums, being the offending item. However, now that time has passed and information has become more easily available (and we’re not hindered by the dreadful 3G reception at Celtic Park), we see that those rumours were far from the full story.

According to Green Brigade posters on several well known forums, it appears that members of the group were being photographed upon entry to the stadium, with many of them being ejected immediately and told they were banned (or to report the ticket office to solve issues with temporary bans which had previously expired). With threats of arrest being banded about, and a Celtic steward informing them the police had a list with names and pictures of “targets”, the group, as a collective, decided that it simply wasn’t worth putting themselves through the grief, and chose to abandon their efforts to see the game.

Whilst I was at the match yesterday, I did not see this with my own two eyes, and therefore I can only go on the reports of those who claim to have been there. For this reason, if anything above is incorrect please feel free to get in touch so I can alter it, or perhaps cover the event in more detail.

 

 

Now, there is an argument which states that “the group bring it on themselves”. This is certainly not something I wholly agree with, but it is perhaps unsurprising that the police naturally target the group of supporters they deem to be the “most extreme”. After all, people who jump about and rarely keep quiet are far more likely to draw attention than a supporter like myself, who sits fairly quietly in comparison. However, and I must make this absolutely clear, this does not mean that it is right for them to be targeted, and it does not mean that they are necessarily guilty of any wrongdoing.

Nobody should be persecuted simply because they are affiliated with the Green Brigade, or the Celtic support as a whole. One thing people must remember is that the group itself is actually far smaller than what many would believe. Not everyone who jumps about at matches, or wears Green Brigade merchandise, are fully fledged members. For example, I’ve stood alongside them, and I could buy (for argument’s sake), a group hoody online, but that doesn’t make me a part of the Green Brigade. To their credit, all but one member whom I have met in person have been lovely people, with a strong passion for Celtic Football Club and their group. Once again, this is not a crime.

Much discussion has involved the fact Strathclyde Police appear to be “upping the ante”, and this looks like it may well be the case. Forgive me if you disagree, but nobody, should be treated differently by the police because they describe themselves as an ultra. As I have highlighted, while the Green Brigade are ultras, they are not hooligans. There is a clear, distinct difference, and the police must recognise this. These individuals are not criminals simply because they happen to stand behind a particular banner.

 

 

Debates regarding which songs should be sung, and whether or not pyrotechnics should be used, should perhaps be encouraged and welcomed by the fan base as a whole. However, the actions of the police and, potentially even the inaction of the Football Club, is driving a wedge through the support.

Fundamentally, with any issue such as this, we must realise that there will be differences of opinion, and we must respect the opinions that other members of the support hold, regardless of whether we agree with them or not. However, with such treatment being reported on a wide, consistent basis by members of the Celtic support, there is certainly a viewpoint which says the Club must officially address these concerns, rather than allowing them to continue unchallenged. Another opinion would say that it is impossible for the Club to address these concerns without being seen as being officially pro or anti-Green Brigade. However, there are always two sides to every story, and perhaps even more in this case, but that doesn’t mean heads should be buried in the sand regarding it.

For supporters of our Club to continuously be arrested, and subjected to all of the stress and notoriety that comes along with a visit to Court, only for the allegations against them to be laughed out of that Court time and time again tells it’s own story. It cannot be allowed to continue.

One thing is certain, above all else, the Green Brigade, whether you love them or loathe them, form a vibrant part of the Celtic support. As the years, decades, and now centuries have passed, Celtic Football Club and it’s supporters have grown and evolved. In recent years, the Green Brigade have been a notable addition to the support as a whole. They may not be perfect, but I for one would be tremendously sad to see them go. And yet, if the treatment of their members continues to worsen as it has been, I couldn’t blame them.

We’re all Celtic supporters. We have our differences, yes, but that simple fact unites us all in a way few with no love of our Football Club can understand. No supporter is truly bigger than the Club, but without each supporter, the Club would not be what it is today, and without the Green Brigade, imperfect as they may be, the fan base wouldn’t be what it is today. Consider it for a moment, life without the Green Brigade. Would most of us continue to go to the football and support Celtic? Yes. However, do you feel we would really be any better off without them? I suppose that’s up to the individual.

I, for one, hope they’ll be here next season, and beyond.

Perhaps it’s time for Celtic Football Club, and potentially Strathclyde Police, to put their cards on the table, and address this growing issue publicly. If not, rumour, suspicion, and concern over allegations on all sides will only continue to fester, and we’ll be no closer to a positive outcome.

If you have any comments, thoughts, or opinions you’d like to add, please feel free to leave a comment below or contact us on Twitter.

 

  23 Responses to “Section 111 – Empty And Silent”

  1. The Police and Celtic are bang out of order………..PL is a disgrace I understand his politics here,It seems he only wants sheep at Parkhead .He may think the GB are getting to big for their boots…….Thats what I believe……..I think he sees it as taming the beast in its infancy,to ward off (perceived)future problems……….He thinks people wi ll forget……..Hhmmm……..Just because things are secure cash wise,at the moment,one never knows ????

  2. Pretty much what I said last night. Time Celtic and the Police told us what is going on and why. We are not cattle this has potential to cause problems in the Celtic family. Over to you Mr Lawwell

  3. Couldn’t agree with you more, an it is a love hate relationship certain quarters of the club have with the GB .. I was at the game yesterday but wasn’t til it was pointed out that they weren’t there, did I realise something was amiss. Agree or disagree love or loathe.. They are deffinatly worth the season ticket money because if the team are rotten on the day, gaurenteed the GB won’t be. HH

  4. Brilliant piece, love or not love them, CP was dull without them yesterday, it’s a quandary tht Celtic need to sort out x thx

  5. I attend CP with my daughter, the GB are a large part of her football “experience” and during lulls in play, I often catch her staring, almost mesmorised at 111. (I do myself sometimes tbh). I have no doubt she would rather be across in 111 than with her boring “auld da”, I can understand this! Although my days of jumping around like a loon, and “belting it out” for 90 minutes(I mean no disrespect using the term loon) are behind me, it hasn’t always been that way. Their exuberance should be congratulated, and if well behaved, encouraged. Like me, these young bhoys, and ghirls, will get older, or circumstances change, and a calmer area may suit their needs better. We all have different wishes at different times of our lives. I would actually like to see an area opened up the opposite end, for our “noisy lot” to provide some balance. Glasgow’s green and white, bouncing from end to end is awesome. We were all young once! Some good’uns, some bad! They support the club passionately, the way they choose. If they bring disrepute to the club, the club must act. I see no evidence of it. Lawell must make a statement! There is a lot of revenue at stake, and he has a duty. He likes to bang the drum about the 12th man. Let’s hear a statement about this.

  6. I have sat in section 111 for about 7 years and have watch the GB grow from ” a few guys” at the back of the section to the group they are today. I don’t know all the ins and outs of what is happening , mainly because 2 sides of this triangle are silent . Often this season and last there have been matches where they have been the only real entertainment on show. I sit on the periphery and the only time I have felt unsafe I have felt it has been the behaviour of the Police that has precipitated hostility from group. Last season at both the Hibs and Rennes games the police treatment felt designed to be intimidating. I have seen people comment that there should be no problem being videoed, but a Police officer standing directly in front openly of the section is intimidating. If you need to search through a video to identify offensive behaviour ,who is really being offended.After the Hibs game I spoke to a police officer to complain and after the Rennes game wrote to my MSP . Love them or loathe them ,I for one on a frozen Saturday have toasty warm feet joining in with them,PS hate spike railing song.

  7. Empty seats and (still) no official communication from The Green Brigade (more than 24 hours later) has left people to argue around what is ,mostly, pure conjecture . The fact that , without information to the contrary, some fans presumed it was another boycott is hardly surprising. That presumption seems to be the source of certain supporters ” losing patience” with the Green Brigade. From the few details that have so far emerged from various sources , yesterday was no boycott , but rather a spur of the moment decision when the GB found themselves faced with harassment and probable arrest .
    However ,other fans are fatigued by the perceived tactic of protest rather than the Green Brigade itself. I wish the Green Brigade only the best however may I humbly suggest that they adopt other forms of protest and show some tactical flexibility so as not to alienate uninformed sections of the home support

  8. Erratum : Have read the Green Brigade Statement dated 17/02 and , while well detailed , it doesn’t alter my point about tactical flexibility .

  9. I always look forward to your take on such things – very well balanced. I believe that you are innocent till proven guilty, and the fact that in most cases, they have failed to prove anything in a court of law, suggests the treatment and arrests are unwarranted to me.
    A point me and my pal were discussing though was how a lot of CP has grown accustomed to letting GB start all the chanting. If they were not there, I feel more people would step forward to attempt to inject atmosphere. Indeed, I thought towards the end of the Dundee Utd game, support on the opposite corner tried to get things going a few times, but the lack of practice at leading the chants showed.
    Nevertheless, the banners, the tifo, and the way they lead most of the other supporters makes me believe we would be worse off.

    As a supporter, season ticket holder and shareholder, I will be writing to the club requesting that they issue a statement soon, clarifying the Club’s position on these escalating events.

  10. what other forms of tactical flexibility do you suggest when the mere motion of entering a football ground leaves you open to 90 mins of intimidation, constant filming and arrest on made up charges?

    • I completely understand the reasons why the GB took the ” on the spot” decision not to take their seats on Saturday Paul . The point I’m making is that many fans inside the stadium immediately jumped to the ” conclusion” that it was another boycott . Not everybody at Celtic Park is an internet aficionado and the GB should maybe consider some “old school” tactics like simply leafleting the support about the current situation .
      If more fans were made aware of the harassment and intimidation the the Green Brigade are facing ( and the Board’s involvement ) then we could get away from bickering amongst ourselves and work together to try and sort it out .

  11. I love most of what the GB do. Personally I think it comes down to the fact that Lawwell asked them to stop singing certain songs and he was ignored. Who knows if he’s been under pressure from the cops or not. I read the GB statement and its ridiculous what some of they guys have went through. One of them got arrested at the airport as if he’s part of some kinda Columbian drug cartel- fuckin disgusting.
    I, like many others have not always agreed with everything the GB have done but I’m right behind the bhoys from this day on.
    UTLR

  12. The bit that jumps out for me in the GB statement.

    “We’re still waiting on them getting back to us about that particular email, although we did receive one prior to the Juventus game with an agenda that in no way mentioned any of the concerns that we outlined.
    We advised that we weren’t prepared to discuss anything any further with them until our initial request was granted. We are still no further forward with that and as a result, any relationship with the club has completely disintegrated.”

    Specifically …”We advised that we weren’t prepared to discuss anything any further with them until our initial request was granted” & then ” any relationship with the club has completely disintegrated.”

    For me this is why Celtic may have turned the screw, if indeed they have ? my own humble opinion.

    Right now it is still very much unclear what is actually going on behind doors, but being uncertain of Celtics involvement in the Police tactics & now the confusion over who is actually doing what, will only increase the level of conjecture inevitably pitching fan view against fan view. Especially if there is no apparent willingness to talk.

    Certain well respected individuals have offered service as mediation.

    A route I believe, should be urgently sought.

    Celtic should also release a statement addressing the concerns of all supporters for these issues effect all supporters. IMO.

    If there is an internal war going on it should be addressed, before it becomes totally external with scenes of boycott or loss of revenue regards tickets etc…

    To be frank,shooting ourselves in the foot in a time when a new historical period ‘hopefully laden with success’ is in it’s infancy is tantamount to extreme stupidity and hands the enemies of our club an even bigger stick to beat us with than ever they had previously.

    The media will be licking their lips and seizing the moment to lay into our club should this escalate and a compromise or solution not be found & quickly, that can only be done with dialogue.

    Refusing to talk on any issue for me is simply ‘Madness’.

  13. I think that is a fair article with good points.
    I think the police tactics are disgraceful. Arresting people at airports, at work and in early dawn raids is costly, heavy handed and unnecessary. I’m sure a phonecall would suffice. Especially as there are no serious violent crimes taking place. This is ridiculous and a waste of Police time.
    When the Police have stopped the GB attending who will be next – the vociferous away support?

    I and many Celtic fans are concerned about the Police harassment of all football fans. There has not been serious disorder inside a football ground in decades and yet the policing has become more heavy handed and intimidating.

    I think the Club must issue a statement to explain to all fans what is going on here and that the Police harassment must stop.

  14. I’m struggling to deal with the reality of 21st century Scotland. Violence and bigotry have declined beyond recognition at football matches. We have rivalry and humour, and while inevitably some will be insulted by what the other side sees as reasonably directed “bragging rights” we have moved on a long way from times when that was backed up by overtly violent overtones.

    And yet the response of the police has moved to something more akin to that of a police state. The constant harassing of supporters, the photographing and the reaction to things which would not turn a head on any High Street on any Saturday night of the week make me wonder what the agenda is and why football supporters and the Green Brigade in particular are the subject of such strange behaviours.

    Can we not get back to common sense which dictates that if there isn’t a problem, for heavens sake, don’t create one.

    I can understand that there is a concern around the pyro, and in my view that is best left off the agenda, but frankly the approach of the authorities and to some extent the apparent connivance by the Board is something which would not be accepted in any other walk of life.

    Our only offence is to football supporters. Why should that make us su

  15. I’m struggling to deal with the reality of 21st century Scotland. Violence and bigotry have declined beyond recognition at football matches. We have rivalry and humour, and while inevitably some will be insulted by what the other side sees as reasonably directed “bragging rights” we have moved on a long way from times when that was backed up by overtly violent overtones.

    And yet the response of the police has moved to something more akin to that of a police state. The constant harassing of supporters, the photographing and the reaction to things which would not turn a head on any High Street on any Saturday night of the week make me wonder what the agenda is and why football supporters and the Green Brigade in particular are the subject of such strange behaviours.

    Can we not get back to common sense which dictates that if there isn’t a problem, for heavens sake, don’t create one.

    I can understand that there is a concern around the pyro, and in my view that is best left off the agenda, but frankly the approach of the authorities and to some extent the apparent connivance by the Board is something which would not be accepted in any other walk of life.

    Our only offence is to football supporters. Why should that make us subject to rules, or at least an interpretation of laws that appears to me to be different from the rest the country?

  16. The absence of the Green Brigade is a major concern, especially if what their statement said is true and I’ve no reason to doubt it. Freedom of movement is a fundamental right and if Police are indeed engaging in policies that infringe one’s human rights then we have a major problem. The Celtic family should be coming together on this matter and questions have to be asked of the Celtic Board. Are we prepared to pass on our hard earned cash to a board with such right wing tendencies? One word against the Green Brigade is that we are a club open to all and not the sporting wing of the IRA. Drop the IRA stuff and the whole support will get behind you.

  17. The biggest factor so far for me in anything I have read is the word ‘IF’.

    There is no clear understanding as yet of what ‘IS’ going on.

    We need a Club statement & a meeting of minds. We need dialogue between the supporters & the club, until then it’s all just simply ‘IF’.

  18. A couple of the pictures you posted with the article highlight some of my misgivings. Their logo with the skull seems to me to be the opposite of the things I associate with Celtic, we’re brave, fair and honest – the good guys essentially. To me that logo is sinister and threatening – I don’t get it. The next picture with the pyro and balaclava wearing ‘hooligan’ for want of a better word, again is obviously something I completely understand the club should distance themselves from. The singing of the ‘wrong’ songs etc, for me, celtic first, celtic last…. I would always put the good of the club before my own agenda.

    I’ll be honest and say that my reaction was “Oh another boycott”. But after reading some of the honest and heartfelt (testimonials for want of a better word) stuff on kerrydale st, I can see that I’ve been harsh. If these supporters, who obviously love Celtic, are at the stage where they feel that they need to unwillingly give up their tickets, things are not as they should be.

    Notwithstanding the misgivings above I always eagerly anticipate the fantastic banners and displays they organise (and pay for) and love their wicked sense of humour. I’ll never forget the Barcelona game or indeed the last visit of RFC to paradise because of all their work. Many a time i’ve been jumping around crazy to just can’t get enough and I certainly don’t want to get back to the way the stadium was about 5 years ago, morgue doesn’t even cover it.

    Maybe I’m naive but I just don’t get how the police can get away with this behaviour, if what these people are saying is true. Surely there is a target rate of cases being brought to court against convictions and the statistics in these cases would be damning. Or as someone above has said – address your concerns with the PCC? I think in 2013 there should surely be some way to fight this.

    Finally, I completely agree that the club need to comment. I do think it is entirely hipocritical for them to be profiting from the groups ideas and innovations whilst persecuting them (if this is the case) in the background. For me, in a fair world, the club should be passing some of the profits from the merchandise etc on to the group. I can totally understand why the board getting big fat bonuses partly from their efforts and ideas must stick in their throat.

    I hope this situation can be resolved for the good of all concerned, and most importantly Celtic. Hail Hail

  19. The Green Brigade have their good points and their bad points. They bring passion, colour and volume. They also bring bigotry, hatred and pyrotechnics.
    Everyone with a brain at the club wants the former and not the latter.
    No group of fans can be above the laws of Scotland or the rules of UEFA.

  20. Pat, what ‘bigotry and hatred’ do the Green Brigade bring?

  21. I have read for many months about the harassment of the GB and it concerns me greatly. The club has to release a statement regarding the situation.
    I appreciate the effort, colour, noise and creativity the GB add to match days, however they have to cease singing songs that hurt the club. I don’t want to get into an argument about the pros and cons of certain songs, however UEFA have made it clear they will not accept some of the songs sung and will punish the club! The pyros should also be ditched following an appeal from fellow supporters who have respiratory problems.
    As for the intimidation aimed at the GB by Police and stewards, we should all unite and say enough is enough! I would not wish to attend CP if I we being filmed or my details sought by the authorities. FFS! Are we now a police state?
    All of us make up the Celtic support-not just the GB-however their absence will make match days less of a spectacle and I for one desire a speedy resolution.

  22. I thought that with the exception of authorised media representatives who hold accreditation issued by the club, the taking of photographs or filming by any other means was strictly prohibited. or does this not apply to the police? Surely if that is a rule then what are the legalities of the police filming fans inside the stadium?

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