CELTIC are to close the ‘Green Brigade’ section of Parkhead for the next two matches.
The decision, which has been taken amid serious safety concerns and after discussion with the police, follows events at the matches against Hearts in May and Linfield on Wednesday night.
The club is writing to the 900 season-ticket holders affected to explain the Club’s position and next steps.
During the the final game of last season against Hearts large numbers of flares were smuggled into and set off under banners within the Green Brigade section.
Celtic say the the match was nearly called off due to the thick smoke drifting across the pitch and that the stadium’s fire alarm was set off.
The Safety Advisory Group of Glasgow City Council, which licenses Celtic Park and comprises representatives from the Council, police, fire and rescue, the ambulance service and other statutory authorities, had an emergency meeting after the Hearts game and communicated their serious concerns to the Club, which presented a risk to the renewal of the safety certificate necessary for the operation of the stadium and the capacity of the safe standing area.
Club Chief Executive Peter Lawwell said: “The behaviour of fans in the Green Brigade section of the ground at the matches against Hearts and Linfield was a serious safety risk, which has left us with no choice but to take decisive action to ensure safety within the stadium.
“There is no room for debate. The safety authorities and the football authorities make the rules. They also enforce the rules. If the rules are broken, Celtic will be punished again and again. There is no hiding place from these realities. Anyone who has Celtic’s interests at heart must surely recognise them and behave accordingly.
“Every club which visits here says the atmosphere is incredible and that is something that we have worked very hard to support and encourage. We cannot understand why supporters who are capable of contributing so much that is positive to the club can be so reckless in doing it damage. In addition to the serious safety concerns, we face further UEFA disciplinary action.
“This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but the behaviour of fans in this section is posing a direct risk to the safe operation of the stadium and is also seriously tarnishing the club’s hard-won reputation.
“Dialogue, engagement and communication with the Green Brigade have evidently failed at this time, given the behaviour experienced at these matches, and we are therefore left with no choice but to take action to ensure safety at the stadium.
“We hope that the action we are taking prompts recognition by those fans of the damage being done to the Club and that we can resume meaningful engagement with them which would ensure a safe environment within that part of Celtic Park.”
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers said: “It’s really disappointing that we are talking about stadium safety and paramilitary banners rather than our progress into the next round of Europe.
“The fans have a responsibility to behave in the stadium and I would urge everyone involved to see the damage this is causing to the club. Hopefully this is a wake-up call.
“The players thrive on the cauldron that the fans create at Celtic Park but there are clearly boundaries that you can’t step over. Everyone knows that pyrotechnics, unacceptable banners and ignoring stewards who are enforcing basic stadium safety measures are simply not on. I really hope that the fans take this on board. It would be a real shame if they forced the club to take more permanent action to ensure safety and protect the Club’s standing in European football, which is what we should all be aiming to promote.”