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27 November 2008 Edition

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Celtic fans have their say

STANDING TOGETHER: Fans send a message to the board

STANDING TOGETHER: Fans send a message to the board

The poppy row at Glasgow Celtic FC

FANS at Glasgow Celtic FC have been in revolt recently against the decision by the club’s hierarchy to go along with the Scottish Premier League’s instruction for all SPL clubs to wear an embroidered red poppy to honour the British armed forces on the shirts of all sides competing on the weekend of 8 November.
The Celtic supporters were protesting against the compulsory nature of the SPL’s ‘advice’ and contend that the red poppy, rather than being a symbol of commemoration, peace and reconciliation, is actually a propaganda tool used by the British Army to bolster support for its wars in countries like Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands of leaflets were distributed at a recent home game and a walk-out during the match and a 500-strong protest at Celtic’s front gate have seen the club retaliate by taking further punitive measures against the rebels.
An Phoblacht spoke exclusively to one of the protest organisers, ‘SL’.

An Phoblacht: Why did you organise the protest at the Motherwell game?
SL: A great many Celtic fans in Scotland, Ireland and further afield were very unhappy that Celtic FC as an institution should be throwing its weight behind the PoppyScotland Appeal and blindly following the SPL’s instructions for the compulsory wearing of poppies on the shirts of all SPL sides and for the observance of a minute’s silence at all SPL matches last weekend.
After deliberating over what form the protest should take, the three groups involved – TAL Fanzine, Green Brigade and local republican support group Cairde na hÉireann  – under the umbrella of Celts Against Imperialism, decided to leaflet all sides of the stadium before the match against Motherwell.
Despite the often-repeated lies of the Scottish media, at no time did we call for the minute’s applause (or minute’s silence as we originally expected) to be disrupted.
Our position regarding the poppy was clearly outlined in the flyer: that our protest was not against individuals that wear the poppy, nor did we mean any disrespect to any of those who lost fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers in two world wars. However, we believe the red poppy to be a symbol purely associated with the British military which is today effectively being used as a propaganda tool by the British Government to bolster support for its illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That a club like Celtic should simply go along with this, apparently oblivious to the many fans in Ireland who have suffered directly at the hands of the British Army, is testament to the type of politically arrogant people that are now in control of our club.

What did the protest entail?
The walk out on the 10-minute mark attracted the greatest attention in the media and has now prompted Celtic into witch-hunt mode. Several hundred supporters walked out of the stadium after 10 minutes play to a mixture of jeers and applause. Around 500 gathered at the Walfrid Statue and spent the next 50-60 minutes chanting slogans against the board, Celtic Chairman John Reid and the British Army.
There were various forms of protest throughout the day. We were told that Celtic has not had so many latecomers arrive for a normal SPL home game in many years. This suggests that many of those unhappy about the poppy being promoted and a minute’s silence or applause being implemented arrived late and did so deliberately to avoid participating in any public acknowledgement of the British Army.
A great many fans boycotted the match completely; most of the Celtic pubs on the Gallowgate did business all through the match, not normal for a home game when most of them have a couple of quiet hours until the match is over and the supporters return.

What happened at the subsequent home match on the Wednesday night against Kilmarnock?
At that match (on 12 November), approximately 32 young Celtic supporters were ejected from the area of the ground where the Green Brigade ultras normally gather. Those with season tickets had them confiscated and some were told that they were being ejected and banned from the stadium for participating in the Saturday protest, which they were informed Celtic PLC finds “unacceptable”.
Some were told that they were simply being ejected because they were “sitting in the wrong seats” – a ‘crime that hardly matters in a half-empty stadium on a cold and wet Wednesday night.
There is no doubt that this is simply a pedantic point being used purely for tactical reasons by the club because it was abundantly clear that the intended targets were the young fans of the Green Brigade who had supported the protest on Saturday.
It seems that the ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ that we were told was being celebrated by the club that weekend does not extend to those that have a different point of view to that of Dr John Reid and the PLC board.

What happens now?
We are discussing the possibility of taking collective legal action against the PLC board and others for the way that they bullied some of our youngest supporters out of Celtic Park.
We are also calling on all Celtic supporters in Scotland, Ireland and across the world to support our campaign to win back our club from those who are apparently now engaged in a campaign to erase our club of its culture and heritage.
These are the men who it seems would happily see Celtic become a sanitised version of Manchester United or any other Premiership club; who would wrap our club in a Union flag rather than an Irish Tricolour. It is these people above all who have deliberately sought to divide the Celtic support and who have declared war upon all dissenters.
It’s ironic that the man in charge at Celtic, Dr John Reid, started his tenure as club chairman by telling us: “At Celtic, we leave our politics at the door.” Yet Celtic has become a highly politicised club during the short reign of the current chairman and his mentor, the Irish business magnate, Dermot Desmond. Dr Reid would do well to take his own advice.

It’s ironic that the man in charge at Celtic, Dr John Reid, started his tenure as club chairman by telling us: ‘At Celtic, we leave our politics at the door’

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