Rangers may be considered Celtic’s arch rivals and enemy on the pitch and in the stands, but the Green Brigade are the Parkhead side’s worst enemy.
Ever since the foundation of the group in 2006, after they split from the now defunct Jungle Bhoys, the Green Brigade have be a thorn in the side of the club – a fact they proudly boast about on their forums and the sites of other Ultras groups.
But the group’s actions during Wednesday night’s match against Linfield at Celtic Park has led to the club being charged for the 13th time in 6 years.
The self-styled Ultras group displayed two paramilitary-styled banners during Celtic’s 4-0 win over the Northern Irish side, with their unveiling enraging the visiting away supporters and led to a number trying to break through the segregation to target Celtic fans closest to them.
Following the game, UEFA issued the club with a charge for Illicit banners, contrary to Article 16 (2) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations. Which could lead to another fine for the club or a partial stadium closure as the governing body issued to Linfield over incidents from the first leg between the two sides.
Celtic issued a statement in the aftermath of the charge on Thursday, stating they were opening an investigation into the banner display and vowed to take ‘appropriate action’ against those involved.
The club statement read: “Any support for a paramilitary or proscribed terrorist organisation has no place at Celtic Park.
“The club has been consistent in condemning such conduct on the very few occasions in the past when it has occurred at Celtic Park.
“It is unfortunate that such a small minority of the crowd at Celtic Park last night behaved in such a way. We know that the Celtic support will join us in condemning such behaviour.
“Events last night have resulted in charges from UEFA in relation to the paramilitary banners and unsafe behaviour in a section of the Celtic support.
“The club has commenced an inquiry and will take appropriate action.”
Celtic issue Green Brigade ban
Just 24 hours later, the club handed a two match ban to the group and all those in the safe standing section – numbering around 900 supporters in all.
Chief Executive Peter Lawwell, speaking to the official club website following the ban being imposed, said: “The behaviour of fans in the Green Brigade section of the ground at the matches against Hearts and Linfield was a serious safety risk, which has left us with no choice but to take decisive action to ensure safety within the stadium.
“There is no room for debate. The safety authorities and the football authorities make the rules. They also enforce the rules. If the rules are broken, Celtic will be punished again and again. There is no hiding place from these realities. Anyone who has Celtic’s interests at heart must surely recognise them and behave accordingly.
“Every club which visits here says the atmosphere is incredible and that is something that we have worked very hard to support and encourage. We cannot understand why supporters who are capable of contributing so much that is positive to the club can be so reckless in doing it damage. In addition to the serious safety concerns, we face further UEFA disciplinary action.
“This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but the behaviour of fans in this section is posing a direct risk to the safe operation of the stadium and is also seriously tarnishing the club’s hard-won reputation.
“Dialogue, engagement and communication with the Green Brigade have evidently failed at this time, given the behaviour experienced at these matches, and we are therefore left with no choice but to take action to ensure safety at the stadium.
“We hope that the action we are taking prompts recognition by those fans of the damage being done to the Club and that we can resume meaningful engagement with them which would ensure a safe environment within that part of Celtic Park.”
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers added: “It’s really disappointing that we are talking about stadium safety and paramilitary banners rather than our progress into the next round of Europe.
“The fans have a responsibility to behave in the stadium and I would urge everyone involved to see the damage this is causing to the club. Hopefully this is a wake-up call.
“The players thrive on the cauldron that the fans create at Celtic Park but there are clearly boundaries that you can’t step over. Everyone knows that pyrotechnics, unacceptable banners and ignoring stewards who are enforcing basic stadium safety measures are simply not on. I really hope that the fans take this on board. It would be a real shame if they forced the club to take more permanent action to ensure safety and protect the Club’s standing in European football, which is what we should all be aiming to promote.”
With every passing game that Celtic play in Europe, UEFA are keeping a keen eye on proceedings with the club and their supporters. This is not because UEFA have it in for Celtic – as some have claimed – but because those perpetrating the rule breaches are giving UEFA cause to do so.
The Green Brigade believe they can do what they want
The Green Brigade have been given enough chances and received a reprieve in 2013 after Celtic lifted a ban on the group, following further incidents involving their actions. But four years on the group has not learned a single lesson and have continued to flout the rules and regulations that every other supporter has to abide by.
So why do the Green Brigade think they are above the law? What makes them so special?
The group themselves admitted in an interview back in 2006, that they wanted to ‘bring back the colour, style, fun, originality and atmosphere back to Celtic games’ on their ‘own terms and in their own way’.
After 11 years, the Green Brigade have got too big for their boots. They believe that they are the Celtic support, that without them there would be no support for the team or atmosphere inside Celtic Park. Even some of their supporters are brainwashed into believing this tripe.
There was a pre-meditation behind their banner on Wednesday night. They weren’t using the display to show support for the team, the manager or the players during the match. They were using the display to target the opposition fans.
While I agree that there is nothing wrong with noising up opposition fans during the match, there is a line you don’t cross and sadly for Celtic the Green Brigade continue to cross that line time and again.
There is no denying that when they are in full flow and showing support for Celtic Football Club, the Green Brigade are a sight to behold and improve the atmosphere. But their continued reliance on peddling the IRA and republican political card inside Celtic Park and other grounds across Scotland and beyond is damaging the club’s reputation and its finances.
Would these individuals continue to flout the rules and unfurl the banners that they do if they had to pay the fines that are levied against Celtic by UEFA? I doubt their politics and beliefs stretch that far – maybe they inevitably launch a crowdfunding project so that others could pay it for them – but who needs to follows the rules when someone else is paying the fines?
Celtic’s action to impose a ban on the group and others in the section was inevitable, some may see this as a harsh punishment but their continued arrogance and determination to do ‘what they want, when they want and screw everyone’ is damaging the club and tarring those Celtic fans who want to go and support Celtic Football Club with the same brush.
Critics of the group, no matter who they are, are abused, insulted and in some cases threatened. Late night phone calls have been made to some, including yours truly, Celtic fans have been labelled Green Huns for daring to condemn the Brigadiers actions and others are labelled not true Celtic fans.
My criticism of the group over the past few years has led them to laughably put me in same bracket as The Sun newspaper over their Hillsborough coverage, when I contacted them for comment over their fundraising efforts following Celtic being handed another fine from UEFA over the group’s Palestinian protest during a Champions League qualifier against Hapoel Be’er Sheeva last season.
Boasting on a Celtic supporters forum subsequently, a Brigadier claimed his ‘Fuck off’ reply to me was ‘very much off the cuff. I stand by the sentiment though’.
He added: “For context, I gave the Sun the exact same response (swap website for paper) the night before to much hilarity. We hold Andy Muirhead and Scotzine in a similar light to the Sun so he got the same response. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t even bother responding to cretins like that.”
Lies have been concocted to discredit many of their critics and claims that the club are in cahoots with Police Scotland to force the group out.
The group’s paranoia and victim mentality, their claims of being singled out to even up the score with Rangers supporters and club collusion was roundly dismissed in 2013, during an interview I conducted with Police Scotland’s Superintendent Stephen McAllister, Head of FoCUS – the unit tasked with enforcing the controversial Offensive Behaviour in Football Bill.
In 1972, legendary Celtic manager Jock Stein confronted a number of Celtic fans during a game against Stirling Albion when he heard them singing songs glorifying the IRA. He was quoted as saying: “Surely there are enough Celtic songs without introducing religion or politics or anything else?”
Former Celtic manager Neil Lennon faced the wrath of the Green Brigade and their hangers-on, after he criticised the group in 2011 after their ‘Fuck UEFA’ banner. The Northern Irishman was called a ‘rat bastard’ by some, while others called for him to ‘keep his gob shut’.
Will the Green Brigade ever learn?
Following Friday’s statement, manager Brendan Rodgers and the board have been on the sharp end of the Brigadiers spear.
One member, in the group’s forum, said: “The group should just force all the bastards out. The Green Brigade are the most powerful people at Celtic Park now.
“Just get every single one of the cunts out now. The whole stadium will back the Green Brigade this time. Peter Lawwell and his fellow Tories have made it their mission to destroy the lives of those that wish to carry on the traditions Celtic fans have carried since Brother Walfrid founded the club.”
Another claimed: “The display was perfect for the team we were playing against. Like the Israelis before, it was an opportunity to show our solidarity with the oppressed people everywhere. Linfield are scum.
“Where was the boards voice on the illicit banner at their ground,when they displayed the butchers apron with Big Jock Knew on it. Nothing not a peep. Well done I say it hit the mark and put them orange c**ts in their place.
“Our city our colours undefeated unrepenting fenian bastards. Well done the GB from a 55 year old rebel.”
While another added: “Disgraceful decision by the Board and Brendan Rodgers statement has lost me respect for him.
“Whatever decision is taken by the Green Brigade next is that there is no doubt myself and others have their full support.
“A closure to this capacity is unacceptable and it nails the Boards position to a mast that they will do anything to suppress our nationalist identity in any face of any contentious banners or chanting in the stadium.”
While there has been support for the Green Brigade, many Celtic fans have criticised the group also and that no one is bigger than the club.
Going forward if the Green Brigade are to remain within Celtic Park, they must accept the consequences of their actions stop deflecting blame to their hangers-on. They need to man up and realise that they are not the Celtic support, that they are not bigger than Celtic Football Club, that the Celtic support will continue without them anyway.
It would be a bold and progressive move if the group decided to ditch the hostility towards the club and the board to work together to produce displays and a section that everyone associated with Celtic can be proud of – free from controversy and free from UEFA punishments.
Celtic have given them enough chances to change their ways and to stop damaging the club, but to date they have not learned their lesson. Will they ever?