2013 should have been a year of mass celebration for the Celtic family around the world, much the same as 1988 when we famously celebrated the centenary year double and had street parties around the globe. We may yet celebrate another league and cup double this year but it is unlikely that there will be celebrations to match those in ’88. We have probably topped anything that we were able to achieve back then with our awe inspiring victory over Barcelona as well as our qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League, made more astonishing as we were there via the pot 4 route.
So, in spite of these incredible achievements, why do I and many other Celtic fans both at home and overseas, feel that something is not quite right at Celtic Park? The events of the past few weeks have been viewed with quiet dismay by many Celtic fans, first the absolutely ludicrous outcome of the Nimmo Smith fiasco. Let me put something out there for thought and discussion. In the workplace, it is quite normal for competitor companies in similar (make that ‘identical’ if you wish) industries to be across what each is paying to their employees, broadly speaking, not to the pound or pence but the structure. If company A is paying 50K plus pension, plus 10% bonus, plus share package, etc then company B may pay 55K plus pension, plus 8% bonus, share package, private health, etc. Now from a competitors view and in a very incestuous industry such as Scottish football with only 12 teams in the SPL and many of the players moving between member clubs, it would be reasonable to assume that most club CEO’s would be very well aware of the payment structures at each of its competitor clubs. These CEO’s would be well aware of the gates, sponsorship deals, TV money as well as other income generated. For this reason, I find it almost impossible to believe that not one of those SPL clubs did not have any knowledge of what was happening in Govan. If it happens in your own office or shop floor, the guys are on to these kind of things in a second, if Big Andy just got a 10% raise this morning, most people know about it somewhere just after lunch time. I believe that most of the SPL clubs would have been aware and if any of the other 11 thought they could legally have gotten away with it then they would have at least asked the question. The fact is, none of the other 11 or maybe 15, given relegation and promotion over an 11 year period, even tried to take a shot at this ‘non-sporting advantage’. What I now want to see, is my club Celtic stand up and be counted. Ask the straight forward questions that fans around the world are asking, the media in Scotland sure as hell are not going to ask them, they are already too busy with their next agenda to ask any kind of pertinent question of what is quite possibly the biggest scandal in Scottish sporting history. Rest assured, Fergus McCann would not have sat idly by issuing bland statement about being surprised at the outcome, he would have had the bunnet on and been out seeking some kind of redress for our club.
Fast forward to last Saturday and the events that unfolded on the Gallowgate, clear for all to see on the web. Kids being corralled, bystanders being threatened not to film with their mobile phones, the usual flannel from the usual suspects. I don’t have a position on the Green Brigade but I am aware that they bring a bit of atmosphere to the ground which I experienced in December. I also understand that their songbook is described as dubious by some. Regardless, what went on last weekend was a complete over reaction from Strathclyde Police and for their ‘spokesperson’ to claim that they got a call about a crowd and responded with 200 officers, horses, dogs and a helicopter is frankly an insult to the populations collective intelligence. It is hard enough to get one of these officers to attend a housebreaking never mind a gathering of 80 or so kids on a Saturday afternoon. The fact that there was a need to roll out the likes of Les Gray and others shows that even those in power at Strathclyde Police probably think that they scored an own goal.
But what off the reaction from Celtic Park, yet another lily-livered general statement from no-one in particular, followed up with the Celtic Trust confirming that the club have indeed been handing over supporters details to the police despite previous protestations that this was not happening.
All of this nonsense is in danger of causing a deep division between those who run the club and the people who support the club. We may be customers but first and foremost we are Celtic supporters. Those old enough to remember will recall Desmond White telling us that we wanted to stand when in fact many people wanted to sit. As those families then running the club struggled to adapt to the changing ways, we the fans became malcontents as we looked to change the structure of Celtic. This happened and Fergus McCann became our new leader and defender, not universally appreciated at the time but defend Celtic to the hilt he did and knocked over countless fools who stood in his way.
Compare and contrast with the present incumbents, these folks are not Celtic any more than you or I, we pay for the privilege of supporting Celtic, the club will be there long after they, you or I are gone from this world. Getting us to the last 16 of the Champions League is a great achievement but not at the expense of watching years of blatant cheating and further missed Champions League opportunities because no-one has the balls to call it out. It is my opinion that the time has come for the present board to unequivocally stand up for Celtic, the fans and footballing integrity. Unity will return as soon as this happens, season ticket numbers will rise and the Celtic family will be content once more, ready to party!