CELTIC have strongly condemned the behaviour of some of their supporters for the vandalism and pyrotechnics that marred the club’s 5-0 victory over Motherwell at Fir Park on Friday night.
In a statement issued yesterday the Parkhead club said: “Clearly we are appalled by the scenes from last night’s match and the actions of a small minority which have again tarnished the great reputation of the club and our supporters on a night when our team produced such a fantastic performance.
“We are currently investigating these events and will update our supporters early next week.”
Around 60 seats were broken in the away end at Fir Park and 18 smoke bombs, three fireworks and a flare were thrown. Alan Dick, the Scottish Professional Football League’s match delegate, described it as “the worst vandalism I have seen inside a football ground”, in his report.
The incidents could represent the tipping point for the Green Brigade. Pictures of broken seats emblazoned with stickers bearing the group’s name were posted on Twitter yesterday, as was a picture of one fan deliberately kicking at a seat and other snaps of supporters covering their mouths to shield them from the effects of smoke bombs. It was reported that some of the seats with Green Brigade stickers had IRA slogans scrawled on them. Another had “f*** Lawwell” written on it – a reference to Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell.
Celtic will be expected to foot the bill for the damage to seats under a reciprocal agreement between clubs but could also find themselves facing a Scottish Professional Football League investigation once the league studies its delegate’s report.
A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “During the course of the match, 18 smoke bombs, three fireworks, and one flare were set off.
“Significant damage was caused to seats within the ground and we are looking into this matter along with the club to establish the circumstances. There were no arrests made inside the ground.”
As well as being wanton vandalism and hooliganism, these acts seem deliberately designed to provoke confrontation. The Green Brigade have become a magnet for thugs who want to cloak themselves in the garb of “pyro Provos”. The reality is that these juvenile delinquents muddy the waters, using the Irish nationalist dimension as an excuse to get their kicks from anti-social behaviour that, to their glee, puts them on a collision course both with their football club and the authorities.
Celtic attempted to ride the tiger with the Green Brigade. Now it would appear they must seek to slay it. Yet the dilemma is that, if they do, they will give the members of that organisation precisely the martyrdom they seek. In their warped minds, a blanket ban would make them the footballing equivalent of the men they celebrate in their roll of honour paean to the IRA hunger strikers.
The conduct of the Celtic support has regressed markedly in the ten years since their behaviour earned awards from UEFA and FIFA. Some of the fan organisations have chosen to be in denial about that fact. Yet the evidence provided by incidents such as those that overshadowed the club’s trip to Dens Park on Boxing Day and their pre-season friendly in Brentford cannot be challenged. Celtic have a growing and serious problem with a sizeable element of their support. Followers of the club outside of that cabal are no longer willing to tolerate the actions of the serial troublemakers.
The Parkhead side are already facing sanctions from UEFA for a banner displayed during the Champions League match against AC Milan last month which compared William Wallace to Bobby Sands. UEFA, who forbid political statements at games, opened disciplinary proceedings against Celtic for an incident of “non-sporting nature”.