Celtic fan group Green Brigade have hit back at the club following the decision to close the block which houses their members, saying they “refuse to allow...a board which has welcomed Tory Lords to dictate our moral compass” and calling for the board to reverse their decision.
The club took the decision to close the ‘Green Brigade’ section of Celtic Park for the next two matches, amid serious safety concerns and after discussion with the police, follows events at the matches against Hearts in May and Linfield on Wednesday night
Against Hearts, the final game of last season, a large numbers of flares were smuggled into the ground and set off under banners within the section.
The club is writing to the 900 season-ticket holders affected to explain the Club’s position and next steps.
While accepting “full responsibility for both the pyrotechnics display to celebrate the achievements of the Lisbon Lions at the Hearts match in May and our ‘Brendan’s Undefeated Army’ tifo during the match against Linfield on Wednesday evening”, the Green Brigade “completely oppose collective punishment and a blanket ban on all fans in our block is disproportionate and unjust therefore we call on the board to revise this decision”.
The group hit out at the club and Peter Lawwell, accusing the club of being “happy to benefit from when it suits their agenda” and calling “this current confrontation...unnecessary and avoidable”.
The statement in full: “Following the club statement on Friday, we take this opportunity to accept full responsibility for both the pyrotechnics display to celebrate the achievements of the Lisbon Lions at the Hearts match in May and our ‘Brendan’s Undefeated Army’ tifo during the match against Linfield on Wednesday evening. While we are disappointed to hear of the impending two match ban that we face, we know that in the sanitised world of Scottish football the actions of an Ultra group like ours may have consequences for our members. We do however completely oppose collective punishment and a blanket ban on all fans in our block is disproportionate and unjust therefore we call on the board to revise this decision.
“As a group we are defined by our style of support and our politics, both of which the club are happy to benefit from when it suits their agenda. Almost a year ago, after much immediate criticism, we brought worldwide adulation on the club for our show of solidarity with the people of Palestine and the subsequent charity fundraising which was endorsed by the Celtic support. What isn’t common knowledge is if it had not been for this incredible response, we would have faced the same punishment as we currently face. In light of this, and of the condemnation of banners and songs from Wednesday, we refuse to allow a discredited and corrupt organisation like UEFA or a board which has welcomed Tory Lords to dictate our moral compass.
“Our decision to mark the achievements of 1967 by using pyrotechnics was not taken lightly. We took the required steps to ensure that this was carried out as safely as possible and in the knowledge that we as a group may face potential consequences as a result of it. We believe the scenes that day and the response from the Celtic support proved it to be worthwhile. We have engaged in regular dialogue with the club over this matter throughout the summer and believed to be reaching an amicable outcome, however it seems as if events outside of our control on Wednesday have impacted upon the decision which has now been reached.
“The Green Brigade exists to support Celtic in a positive manner and we believe that this current confrontation is unnecessary and avoidable. We welcome Peter Lawwell’s call for dialogue as we have been waiting on his availability for some time. One of our first talking points will be the unnecessary and unsafe policing operation carried out during Wednesday night’s match, which we believe must be the source of one of UEFA’s charges (blocked stairwells) and could only have been designed to antagonise fans in the area. As the evidence below proves, it is bizarre and shameful that the club have not only blamed the fans for this charge but have cited it as a reason for the ban.
“Other pertinent issues to be addressed are the club’s response to the biggest cheating scandal to shame Scottish sport; the insulting of the Celtic support over the Linfield away debacle and negligence of the safety of those they knew would travel; and the silence over the racial and sectarian hatred directed at our player of the year and manager. Typically, the club are quick to bite the hand that feeds them yet reluctant to unite against common detractions.
“We have built a positive relationship with the Celtic SLO however we are concerned that his position is nearly untenable due to the manner in which he is continually undermined by Celtic security staff. The SLO is required to “collaborate with the security officer on safety and security-related matters” however has been deliberately excluded from discussions of this nature which is in breach of the UEFA SLO Guidelines, as per article 35. His exclusion is a deliberate tactic adopted by the police and Celtic security to facilitate the targeting of our members.
“For over 10 years now the Green Brigade has withstood attacks from Police Scotland and sadly this will always continue. This also will not be our first ban or forced absence from Celtic Park. The Green Brigade has not only survived through the years but we have thrived - we are currently as large and strong as we have ever been. We can assure all that we will be back in Celtic Park soon enough and that we will never allow our style nor our politics to ever be diluted.”