No pyro, no party? Celtic must open discussions with the Green Brigade to end feud
Once again, the fragile and testing relationship between Celtic and the Green Brigade has hit the headlines.
The club decided to close the section for the Rennes match on Thursday – and it later emerged that the ultras group are having all their tickets withheld until further notice, including the cup final.
Fans seem split over the group’s use of pyrotechnics at big matches which has seen the club hit with UEFA charges and fines each time.
Celtic have repeatedly called on the Green Brigade to stop using fireworks and bangers at games, for very obvious reasons – public safety and the fines. You’ve got to understand the club’s stance here.
But you can also see the amazing sight and atmosphere that pyro creates at Celtic Park, away games – and all over the world.
In many countries there are designated ‘safe pyro’ sections, but in Scotland – and at UEFA games – it’s banned.
There is no doubt that the Green Brigade would be in support of this even though it would require a change of laws, rules and regulations. But that’s not beyond the realms of possibility.
This is the club – and supporters’ group – who are leading the way and championing safe standing sections in the UK. But we have to remember how that all came about.
In the early years of the Green Brigade, they were repeatedly told by the club to stop “overcrowding”, “body surfing” and “lateral movement”. They tried to disband the group over this. Eventually the ultras were allowed back, but did they stop? No. They continued until there were solid discussions on a safe standing section at Celtic Park.
So you can possibly understand the logic from the GB on how to deal with the club, based on past experience. The resilience of the group led to progression and now we have a section that is the envy of every top-flight club in Scotland and England.
So are Celtic going about it in the right way? Is banning the most vocal and colourful section of the support – that is renowned worldwide – the best thing to do?
I think its now time for the club to sit down with the Green Brigade, police, safety experts and people who regulate ‘safe pyro’ in other countries and have an adult discussion on how it could be implemented at Parkhead.
Last year, Police Scotland assistant chief constable Bernard Higgins said he would be “open to discussions” on the use of ‘safe pyro’. Let’s have these sensible discussions about it now. It works in the USA, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Israel etc. Why can’t it work in Scotland? Why are we not even just starting the conversation to get the ball rolling?
If plans are put forward and progressing, the Green Brigade may have to compromise for a little while and stop the use of pyro until the section is deemed safe for it. But let’s get those discussions and plans in place NOW.
Celtic could be seen as leading the way once again on fan involvement/experience in the UK and keeping up with the rest of the world, where this is the norm. Convincing UEFA would be another issue but let’s be the club that can show them that it works in a crazy environment like Celtic Park.
The Green Brigade, while often controversial, are generally a force for good.
This is the group that now orchestrates the colour and atmosphere at every single game – whether it’s Hamilton in the league, or Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
It’s the group that raises awareness to many fantastic causes and highlights issues in society at home and abroad.
It’s the group that raised £176,000 to help oppressed people in Palestine, in response to UEFA’s ridiculous fine for the waving of the Palestinian flag.
It’s the group that raised £16,000 for immigrant support charities in Rome and Glasgow, in response to another ridiculous UEFA fine for anti-fascist banners.
And it’s the group that continues to host the biggest foodbank drive in the whole of Scotland every year, supporting many families of all backgrounds who are in need of help and are suffering against the system.
These are grown-up issues, grown-up causes and grown-up solutions. It’s time for Celtic to stop treating this group like a bunch of naughty school kids and have grown-up discussions with them on how to progress and make Celtic Park an even better, more colourful – but safe – environment.
Anthony Joseph is an awarding-winning journalist for KICCA Media in London. He is formerly of the MailOnline and Aberdeen Evening Express. He is a regular guest on The Totally Scottish Football Show and is a lifelong Celtic fan.
Twitter – @AnthonyRJoseph