Timing of Celtic’s Green Brigade bombshell raises questions ahead of AGM

Last night, Celtic dropped the bombshell that they are shutting down part of the standing section housing the Green Brigade.

Having done so in the past, after incidents against Hearts and Linfield, the action itself is no surprise.

The club has also issued a number of terse statements on the official website, repeatedly requesting the use of pyro be stopped.

Celtic has been in the dock a few times this season over pyro following incidents in Stockholm and at home versus Cluj. A fine over banners and ‘illicit chanting’ at home to Lazio was followed by another UEFA summons landing with a thud after more pyro in Rome.

There doesn’t seem much room for manoeuvre here. Unregulated pyro isn’t allowed, fines are incurred. Fans won’t stop, the conflict continues and this is just the latest salvo.

Officially sanctioned fireworks are used at events, by Celtic and other clubs. As they are regulated, this is different to the use of them in a confined space where not everyone may be entirely sober.

People can and do get injured when these go off. At Ibrox in August, 16 people were treated by medics when Legia fans set off a huge display that resulted in the game being temporarily called to a halt.

The injuries were believed to be for smoke inhalation, something that has regularly been highlighted as a particular health concern among fan groups.

In 2016, Joe O’ Rourke, General Secretary of the Celtic Supporters’ Association, said: “The dangers to our own supporters alone make it unacceptable. We have many travelling supporters who suffer from respiratory problems, a lot of which were caused by many years working in shipyards and down mines. They deserve to be respected.”

Evidently, that’s something that has been ignored by those who continue the use of flares, or who argue in favour of it.

Whether safe pyro can be introduced is one thing, whether that will appeal to fans who use it is another. Looking at it from the outside, it seems a large part of the appeal, aside from the visual element, is the fact that it’s not allowed in the first place.

Sticking two fingers up to authority looks like part of the attraction. How many other occasions can you put a skull mask or a balaclava to good use?

Using ‘legal’ flares would be a bit like pretending to be drunk after being given a can of shandy at Christmas when you’re 10.

The club, however, has a responsibility to look after the safety of fans when they’re at the games. It is not a situation where they’re going to do nothing about it.

With the game in Rome played almost three weeks ago, Celtic presumably has had ample time to come to this decision, so the question is, why now?”

It can’t have escaped anyone’s notice that pyro was used at that match, with a rambling Rod Stewart even commenting that the matter was discussed with Peter Lawwell at the match.

Not all of Celtic’s fans live around the corner. For many, it involves long journeys, holidays booked from work and hotel stays.

To say that a refund will be issued might cover the price of a ticket, but for any who have forked out a not insubstantial amount of money to follow their team, it’s a blow below the belt.

Celtic’s AGM is tomorrow and the answer to ‘why now?’ could lie here.

The club has already indicated that it will vote against Resolution 12, which roughly speaking seeks redress over a whole series of shenanigans between the now-defunct Rangers and the SFA that resulted in Celtic being diddled out of European money.

Full details can be found on the comprehensive Resolution 12 website here and there are tough questions to be answered regarding Celtic’s position on the matter.

If time for questions from the floor is eaten up over fan behaviour, the cynical amongst us might think that this week’s narrative twist results in a job well done.

People who follow Celtic invest a lot of time, money and emotion into following their club. The least that can be expected is that those “custodians” in the boardroom not only fight our corner, but are seen to be doing so.

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