CELTIC have laid the blame for last Friday night’s crowd disorder at Fir Park firmly at the door of the Green Brigade section of their support by effectively banning their collective presence at Parkhead.
As they await disciplinary proceedings from the SPFL, whose chief executive Neil Doncaster yesterday condemned the scenes in Motherwell as “shameful”, Celtic announced firm action of their own against those involved.
The club have issued suspensions from home and away games, subject to further inquiries, to 128 people identified as being allegedly involved in the setting off and throwing of flares and smoke bombs before and during the Premiership game at Motherwell, as well as the significant vandalism of seats in the South Stand at Fir Park.
All of the 128 provisionally banned have been invited to interviews at Celtic Park this week which will be conducted by the club’s head of security Ronnie Hawthorn.
In addition, Celtic are to relocate around 250 season ticket holders from section 111 at Celtic Park, the area which houses the Green Brigade. Those who decline will be refunded the remaining value of their season ticket. The club intend to distribute free tickets to charitable causes for the section 111 seats at this Saturday’s game against Hibs.
It is a significant statement of intent by the Celtic board, whose relationship with the Green Brigade has now completely broken down. Chief executive Peter Lawwell and his fellow directors were incensed by the controversial banner held aloft in section 111 just before kick-off at the Champions League match against AC Milan two weeks ago, depicting William Wallace and Bobby Sands.
The club had received assurances from the Green Brigade beforehand that any banner display would be wholly related to Celtic and have no political content. The breach of that agreement now leaves Celtic facing another fine from Uefa, whose control and disciplinary body will hear the case in Nyon tomorrow.
Celtic have been fined six times in the last seven years by Uefa for incidents involving their supporters. The club also face SPFL action over a banner relating to the H block hunger strikers at the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland which was displayed by the Green Brigade before last month’s game against Aberdeen.
The Green Brigade have denied their members were involved in the disturbances at Fir Park but admitted they lacked control of those who were in the area of the stand which they occupied.
Celtic’s patience has snapped, however, with the club believing the image of the Green Brigade is now so negative that they cannot continue to facilitate them as they have been doing at home matches. The group have been credited by some for bringing a more vibrant atmosphere to Celtic Park, but the board have reached the firm conclusion that is now outweighed by the damage suffered to the club’s reputation.
The official statement released by Celtic yesterday afternoon made it plain they are determined to diminish the Green Brigade’s presence and influence among their support.
“Following events on Friday evening at Fir Park Stadium, Celtic Football Club today announced that it has issued precautionary suspensions against 128 individuals preventing them attending matches involving Celtic, pending further investigation,” it read. “These suspensions will cover matches at Celtic Park and away matches.
“In addition, the club will be relocating around 250 season book holders in Section 111 to other areas within the stadium, or offering refunds covering the remainder of the season to those who do not wish to be relocated.
“Events such as those on Friday night do not represent the Celtic support or the club. These events were an embarrassment to our great football club and are absolutely indefensible.
“It is clear that there is an element which has no hesitation in bringing Celtic’s name into disrepute. This is something the club will not tolerate and we therefore have no other option but to take this action. We will not allow the great name of
Celtic to be damaged in this way any more – our supporters deserve more than this.
“While recent events are very regrettable, we would like to thank our many thousands of fans for the wonderful, positive backing which they continue to give to Celtic. We are sure these supporters will understand the position which the club is in and we are also sure they will unite with the club as we move forward.
“Celtic Football Club is in excellent shape on and off the field. The club is in a very safe and strong position and we have a young, exciting team working hard to deliver quality football and success for our supporters, as they did on Friday evening with a magnificent performance. This is what we want to be talking about and this is what we want to celebrate.
“Celtic has a proud 125-year history and fundamental to that history have been our fans. Our supporters enjoy a wonderful reputation earned across many years, many families and many generations. This is something we must protect vigorously.”
The SPFL are expected to decide within the next week whether to take disciplinary action against Celtic. They are awaiting the report from Alan Dick, their match delegate at Fir Park on Friday night, who inspected the damage at the end of the game alongside Celtic security chief Hawthorn.
Under SPFL rules, Celtic are already liable to pay Motherwell the full cost of repairing and replacing the seats in the south stand. SPFL chief executive Doncaster was unequivocal in his criticism of the conduct of those Celtic fans responsible.
“We absolutely condemn this type of behaviour,” said Doncaster. “It has no place in the game. We are confident that the police and both clubs will play a full part in helping to identify those involved in what were shameful scenes.
“We have already been in touch with both clubs and the police following the disturbances during Friday night’s fixture at Fir Park.
“We expect the SPFL match delegate report to be with us within the next 24 to 48 hours. The SPFL will work closely with our colleagues at both clubs and with the police as part of a thorough investigation into Friday night’s events.”