Friday, 11 August 2017

Tails Don't Wag Dogs

The Herald carried an interesting opinion piece the other day by Matthew Lindsay on the behaviour of Celtic FC's 'ultra' football fans, the self-styled Green Brigade.

'Colour' is good at football matches, as is passion, but if you ask me the vast majority of Celtic fans are opposed to this tiny group using the club as a platform for their elitist and/or sectarian political views.

And if they don't listen, then just like a wayward player who gets too big for his boots - no one can be allowed to behave as if they are bigger than the club itself.

Matthew Lindsay: The Green Brigade will soon be back at Celtic Park - but for how much longer?

The space normally occupied by the Green Brigade at Celtic Park sat empty in the Champions League qualifier last week.

A FEW years ago now I found myself, quite unexpectedly, in the company of one of the more prominent members of the Green Brigade at a dinner in Glasgow.

It turned out to be an interesting, not to mention convivial, evening.

It was not long after the controversial Celtic supporters’ group had been disbanded by the hierarchy of the Parkhead club following incidents in a game against Motherwell at Fir Park in 2013.

An estimated £10,000 worth of damage had been caused to seats, a flare was set off in the same area and two smoke bombs thrown onto the park, one of which landed just yards away from their own goalkeeper Fraser Forster.

The Scottish champions suspended 128 fans while 250 season ticket holders who were billeted in Section 111 – the area of Celtic Park which houses the Green Brigade – were also dispersed to other parts of the stadium.

My fellow dinner guest’s disappointment at what had happened, both at Fir Park and subsequently, was clear and he offered both a passionate and persuasive argument as to why the actions of the club had been wrong.

It was no surprise to me, given the strength of his feelings and logic behind his reasoning, when Celtic reversed their decision shortly afterwards and reinstated the group.

He was, though, rather less convincing when it came to defending the giant banners showing, among other things, IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands which had been unfurled at the Champions League group game against AC Milan the month before that Motherwell match.

Another of those present at our table, a lifelong Celtic supporter who had gone along to the Milan match in the hope of seeing his heroes record a famous win, had been so appalled he had walked out.

To my knowledge, he has not been back to this day.

The Green Brigade member’s insistence the message had been justified and had met with the approval of the majority of the Celtic supporters was, given the disgust shown by the man sitting just a few places away, astonishing.

It is this misplaced belief they have the backing of all Celtic supporters which makes their more moronic actions, which have this season led to them being banned from both of the Champions League qualifiers against Rosenborg, the pre-season friendly with Sunderland and the opening Ladbrokes Premiership match with Hearts, so objectionable.

The Green Brigade - who will, it was announced earlier this week, be allowed to return to Parkhead following the Hearts game this afternoon - have certainly done a huge amount to improve the atmosphere at their ground since being formed in 2006.

Modern all-seated football stadia can be subdued and soulless places. Mercifully, this is more of an issue in England, where the ordinary working man was long ago priced out of the game at the highest level, than it is in Scotland. Still, it remains a problem in this country as well.

The Green Brigade, and groups like them, do much to rectify that. Neil Lennon was certainly appreciative of their presence during his time as Celtic manager. “They sing non-stop,” he said. “They add colour. In the main, they have behaved themselves impeccably. They have changed the stadium. It’s a fun place to come for the supporters.”

There was nothing fun, however, about the illicit banners they held up or the chants they belted out in the Champions League qualifier against Linfield last month.

There was nothing particularly jolly either about the flares they raised underneath a giant flag display, endangering the safety of themselves and those around them, on the day the Premiership trophy was presented back in May.

Until the Green Brigade realise not all of those about them share their extreme views or approve of their outlandish activities, until they understand most Celtic supporters want to see their team flourish on the park and the international reputation they enjoy off it protected, they run the very real risk of being broken up permanently.

The safe-standing section which opened at Celtic Park last season, the first of its kind in the United Kingdom, was half-full in the Rosenborg game last week and will be strangely silent once again today. That could be the norm in future unless its occupants heed the latest of the many warnings they have been given.

Out of Control (02/08/17)

The Herald reports on the ugly and inexcusable behaviour of a small group of Celtic 'ultras' who brought shame on the club they claim to support at a recent away match in Sunderland which was marred by drunkenness and violence.

I wonder which aspect of the club's rich 'cultural heritage' these clowns thought they were celebrating by behaving in this way - maybe the Green Brigade can throw some light on the subject?

No one can tell these people how to conduct themselves, apparently, which has resulted in the founder of the far-right English Defence League to claim the high moral ground by offering a reward to anyone who helps identify the individuals involved.

I hope that other decent Celtic fans will do the job for free.

Far-Right group founder offers reward for naming and shaming Celtic fans caught chanting offensive song about murdered soldier

By Martin Williams - The Herald

Far-Right group founder offers reward for naming and shaming Celtic fans caught chanting offensive song about murdered soldier

PROMINENT Scots have hit out at the Celtic fans who were caught on camera chanting an offensive song about the death of murdered soldier Lee Rigby.

In footage uploaded on social media Hoops supporters can be seen and heard singing: "F... Lee Rigby, he won't be drumming anymore. Will he f..."

Tommy Robinson, the English Defence League founder, who was also there wearing a GlasgowRangers shirt - the arch rivals of Celtic.

He later offered a £1000 reward on social media to "anyone who identifies any of these scum bags"

The clip is believed to have been filmed on Saturday before the match between Celtic and Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

Before the game there were ugly scenes as rival supporters clashed in street brawls and launched flares leading to 21 arrests by police.

SNP MP James Dornan was one of many who took to Twitter to shame the fans saying: "What is it about some football fans? Celtic should find these guys and ban them for life from Parkhead. Disgusting."

And Scots human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar added: "This is disgusting, shameful and  beyond belief - There can be no excuse."

Murder Most Foul (19/12/17)

Here's the best report I've read of trial of the two men charged with the cruel and cowardly murder of Drummer Lee Rigby. 

Writing in the Independent, John Hall lays bare some of the ridiculous arguments advanced by a defence lawyer who go as far as to suggest that his client was motivated by a 'noble idea'.

What a complete load of old tosh - and what I can't understand is why the state pays for some of the most expensive lawyers in the land, QCs no less, to spout such nonsense.

I could understand a defence lawyer saying that his client admits to killing someone, but has a misplaced belief that he was entitled to carry out this horrendous act because of his twisted religious and political beliefs - and then sit down. 

But all this guff about a 'noble idea' and 'manslaughter' really is an insult to people's intelligence - why else would Adebolajo and Adebowale try to cut off the head of their victim, other than as a vile trophy to be help up as part of a triumphant display?

I read somewhere previously that Adebolajo described his actions as 'merciful' and likened the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby to the Halal tradition of slaughtering animals - by cutting their throats and ensuring a quick death.

Which is sophistry, of course, because human beings are not beasts and Halal does not require practitioners to cut the head off and otherwise disrespect the body of an  animal - which is intended solely for human consumption.

So, I am amazed that a member of the legal profession can argue his client did not intend to murder Drummer Lee Rigby by first of all rendering him helpless with a cowardly attack from behind in a motor vehicle.

Noble deed, my arse.        

Lee Rigby murder trial: 'Great' Islam is not in trial, jurors told, as judge says nothing in Michael Adebolajo's evidence amounts to a murder charge defence

Prosecutor Richard Whittam says what the men did was 'indefensible in the law of this country'


Jurors in the case of two men accused of murdering soldier Lee Rigby have been told “Islam, one of the world's great religions, is not on trial”.

Muslim converts Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 22, are accused of running Fusilier Rigby down with a car and then hacking him to death with a meat cleaver and knives near Woolwich barracks in south east London on May 22.

Prosecutor Richard Whittam QC told the jury at the Old Bailey what the men did was "indefensible in the law of this country".

But Adebolajo's defending counsel, David Gottlieb, said a proper charge for his client would have been "treason, terrorism, or maybe manslaughter".

Earlier in the day, Mr Justice Sweeney told the jury that nothing said by Adebolajo in his evidence amounts in law to a defence to the charge of murder.

He also told jurors that they were discharged from any further consideration of a count of conspiracy to murder a police officer. Both men deny remaining counts of murder and attempted murder of a police officer.

In his closing speech, Mr Whittam QC said: "It's important that I make it clear - Islam, one of the world's great religions, is not on trial, nor could it be."

Recounting the events of May 22 and the prosecution's case, Mr Whittam showed the jury once again images of bloodied knives, and also replayed the video clip in which Fusilier Rigby is seen being hit by a Vauxhall Tigra.

"What was the consequence of driving into Lee Rigby?" asked Mr Whittam. "The consequence was it broke his back.

He went on: "What was the purpose of what they have done, killing Lee Rigby in the way they had done, in putting the body there and staying at the scene?

"To borrow a phrase from the first defendant - carnage."

Mr Whittam turned to the charge of attempted murder of a police officer and described the defendants' actions when police arrived at the scene.

He told the jury not to be "seduced by suggestions that the sole objective was to commit suicide".

Describing Adebolajo's movements, the prosecutor said: "He had a meat cleaver, a weapon that needed to have direct contact. He raised the weapon above his head and got very close to the vehicle."

Describing Adebowale's movements, he said: "Did he run straight at the vehicle to be caught? He ran along the wall. Why? To draw fire."

Finishing his speech, Mr Whittam said: "What these two men did, crashing their car and breaking the back of Lee Rigby and then killing him is indefensible in the law of this country."

He went on: "Killing to make a political point, to frighten the public, to put pressure on the Government or as an expression of anger is murder and remains murder whether the government in question is a good one, a bad one or a dreadful one."

In his closing speech, Mr Gottlieb said: "All deaths outside of lawful deaths are cruel, needless and unnecessary.

"Do you think really that this is the cruellest, most sadistic, most callous, most cowardly killing that's ever occured in our nation's history? It isn't."

Mr Gottlieb asked the jury to consider whether the prosecution had put their case on the basis that it was "cowardly and callous" to "enflame" or "distract" them from the view that the death "must be murder and nothing else".

He told jurors the proper charge for Adebolajo would have been "treason, terrorism, or maybe manslaughter".

Earlier, Mr Gottlieb quoted from a poem by First World War poet Edmund Blunden, called Report On Experience, and told the jury that religion had been a "red herring" in the case.

The defending barrister also suggested that Adebolajo was "the most law- abiding terrorist in the history of this country" as his client paid for a parking ticket moments before the alleged murder took place.

Mr Gottlieb later explained that he was using a "Sherlock Holmes" approach, adding: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

Mr Gottlieb told the jury that they "genuinely have a choice" to acquit his client, and that they will be under pressure "from outside, from the mob, from the world, to convict". He said that the prosecution case "lacks any sense of proportion or of ridiculousness".

Turning to the attempted murder charge, he said it is "possibly the most ridiculous charge ever put before a judge and jury in the history of this country".

He claimed that the prosecution has no satisfactory explanation as to why Adebolajo told a witness to stay back "when the police and the soldiers get here".

The jurors were then played part of the film clip of Adebolajo with bloodied hands, but with no sound.

Mr Gottlieb said that a woman who walked past him as he spoke was clearly not afraid of him.

He said there were unarmed police near the scene, but Adebolajo chose to wait for armed teams, which would not fit with an intention to kill an officer.

The barrister went on to tell the panel of eight women and four men that the issue of what motivated Adebolajo "raises awkward questions" for the UK's political leaders.

He said: "A person, a human being, can do the most evil act in the world and not actually be evil themselves."

The prosecution could not accept that Adebolajo may have been motivated by "a noble idea", and he had attacked "a symbol of the state", Mr Gottlieb said.

Well Done Celtic! (22/07/17)

Here's a Facebook post from an old friend of mine on the latest antics of the so-called Green Brigade whose juvenile and sometimes ugly behaviour behaviour results in Celtic being regularly fined by the football authorities.

The Green Brigade can be witty and colourful. But they also can be self indulgent and offensive. They were bang out of order on Wednesday night and not for the first time. I'm not interested in whataboutery. Celtic have more songs than anyone else which are inspiring and/or humourous. Too many people suffered in 'the troubles' for self appointed politicos to make wise cracks about. The good name of the club comes before them. If it's come to this, so be it. There's plenty of people will take their seats and their season tickets. Rant over! 

Hail! Hail!


The problem is that this self-appointed group seem to think that they are bigger than Celtic FC - if you ask me, they are to football what the SWP (Socialist Workers Party) is to politics.

The BBC reports that the 'safe-standing' area where the Green Brigade gathers is to close for the next two games and if this doesn't knock some sense into these 'clowns', the obvious  next step would be to return this part of the ground to an all seated area, like the rest of the stadium.  


Celtic to close Green Brigade section amid 'safety concerns'

BBC Football

Green Brigade display against Hearts

Celtic say the Green Brigade section of the club's Glasgow stadium will be closed for the next two games "amid serious safety concerns".

The club is writing to the 900 season-ticket holders affected to explain the decision and "next steps".

Uefa charged Celtic over an "illicit banner" displayed during their Champions League tie against Linfield.

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell said decisive action was needed in response to the fans' behaviour.

The Glasgow club have also been cited for a "kit infringement" and "blocked stairways" during Wednesday's 4-0 victory at Celtic Park.

In the aftermath, they condemned the conduct of "a small minority of the crowd".

In the past six years, the Scottish champions have been punished on 10 separate occasions relating to misconduct from supporters during European ties.

'Tarnishing club's reputation'

In a statement on Celtic's website, the club said the fans' behaviour during matches against Linfield in midweek and Hearts last season were a cause for concern.

The section will be closed for next Wednesday's Champions League qualifier against Rosenborg and against Hearts on the opening day of the Premiership season on 5 August.

"The safe standing area of the stadium had been working very well until the final game of last season against Hearts, when large numbers of flares were smuggled into and set off under banners within the Green Brigade section," Celtic said.

"It was an incredibly irresponsible and co-ordinated action which could have had tragic consequences.

"Safety of all supporters at Celtic Park is of paramount importance to the club.

"The safe operation of the safe standing area at Celtic Park requires effective communication and engagement with the supporters in that area.

"Unfortunately, due to the events at the Hearts and Linfield matches, the club is not satisfied that the Green Brigade section can be operated safely at this time."

Celtic fans displayed banners during the win over Linfield in Glasgow

Celtic say they will attempt to talk to the Green Brigade about a way forward before admitting them to the section in future.

Lawwell said the behaviour of the fans in the section during the Linfield and Hearts matches amounted to a "serious safety risk".

The club's chief executive added: "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.
'Celtic wake-up call'

"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."

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers expressed disappointment to be talking about "stadium safety and paramilitary banners rather than our progress into the next round of Europe".

Rodgers added that the use of pyrotechnics, unacceptable banners and ignoring stewards enforcing basic stadium safety measures "are simply not on".

"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," he said.

"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."

The Greetin' Brigade (19/08/16)

Image result for celtic v Hapoel + images

Glasgow's 'Greetin Brigade' were up to their old tricks the other night when Celtic met the Israeli club Hapoel Be'er Shiva in a qualifying tie for the Champions League.

As they do from time to time, this small but vocal band of supporters tried to hijack a football game for their own political ends by encouraging Celtic fans to wave Palestinian flags contrary to UEFA rules.

Now the Greeting Brigade can do this quite legitimately outside the stadium where they are 'free citizens' and the UEFA rules don't apply, but they know that the vast majority of Celtic fans aren't interested in mixing football and politics this way.

The end result is likely to be another hefty fine for the club because of the boorish behaviour of a small section of its supporters.

Celtic face fine after fans unfurl Palestinian flag at Israeli match

Celtic face fine after fans unfurl Palestinian flag at Israeli match

By Brian Donnelly - The Herald

CELTIC were facing disciplinary action after fans went ahead with threats of unfurling Palestinian flags against an Israeli team in the Champions League.

Despite warnings to avoid political gestures and the certainty that the club will be fined, some Celtic supporters raised Palestinian flags at the Scottish champions’ match against the champions of Israel, Hapoel Beer Sheva.

A Facebook page called "Fly the flag for Palestine, for Celtic, for Justice" was set up to co-ordinate the protests with fans being offered Palestinian flags to fly at the match.

Greetin' Brigade

The tiny group of Celtic supporters known as the 'Greetin' Brigade' have brought shame on their club once again as the BBC reports the deliberate disruption of a Remembrance silence before yesterday's match at Aberdeen.

Now this has nothing to do with free speech of course because the idiots behind this kind of disrespectful and insulting behaviour are free to organise their protests anytime, anywhere - instead of trying to use football as a platform to air their views.

So, I'm all in favour of Celtic fans giving those morons up because by identifying who they are which will allow the club to name and exclude them from future Celtic FC events, and the for police to act whenever they can.  

Celtic fans arrested during Remembrance silence before Aberdeen game

Police said the vast majority of fans observed the silence

Two Celtic fans were arrested during the Remembrance Sunday silence before the game against Aberdeen at Pittodrie.

There has been anger on social media in the wake of disruption during the minute's silence.

Police Scotland said two men, aged 32 and 55, were charged with assault following a disturbance in the away fans section during the silence.

Another two men, aged 24 and 29, were arrested elsewhere in the stadium for unrelated offences.

'Behaved impeccably' 

All four are expected to appear in court at a later date.

Supt Innes Walker said: "The overwhelming majority of the sell-out crowd from all sections of the ground respected the minute silence and behaved impeccably throughout the entire game.

"Police Scotland will continue to work with Aberdeen Football Club to improve the match day experience for all spectators but fans must be aware that any form of unacceptable behaviour will be dealt with firmly."

Celtic - who were down to 10 men - won the game 2-1 thanks to a late goal, after Aberdeen had taken the lead

Greetin' Brigade (18 December 2014)

Here's an article on the Green Brigade which appeared in Scotland on Sunday at the weekend - a spectacularly ill-informed and mealy-mouthed piece of work, if you ask me.

Because the 'activism' on display by this group of Celtic fans, is essentially no different to the the marches and parades which are still an ugly feature of life in Northern Ireland and the west of Scotland - from time to time.

The marchers claim they have right to march when and where they want in a 'free' society, yet any reasonable person can see that their insistence on being able to march through areas where they are not welcome - is not about activism but about their desire to provoke and upset their neighbours.

In other words their real aim is to magnify and glorify religious tensions - and not with the purpose of making a sensible political point or bringing people together in an atmosphere of reconciliation.

Now I can understand the argument that Bobby Sands and the other 'hunger strikers' are regarded as a political inspiration to some, but a football game is not the place for political statements - especially where the message will inevitably be seen as divisive and provocative.

Football is a sport after all and should not allow itself to be hijacked for political ends - if some fans want to run political campaigns, let them knock themselves out elsewhere.

I have my own views on Scottish independence or Dignity in Dying, for example, but I would never dream of trying to use a football match as a vehicle for promoting my views.

The comparison being drawn with Nelson Mandela is plainly ridiculous because the former South African President was a great healing and unifying figure, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, so why would anyone want to turn a minute's silence for Nelson Mandela into some arcane political point? 

So, the chap who calls the Green Brigade the Greetin' Brigade makes a fair point - time to move on.       

Comment: Trouble in Paradise for Green Brigade

A banner displaying William Wallace and Bobby Sands shown by the Green Brigade at Celtic Park last month. Picture: SNS


Celtic have banned their ultra fans the Green Brigade, but is it really political activism that’s being punished, asks Dani Garavelli

WITH their passion, their ­colourful and provocative banners, and their anti-authoritarian attitude, the Green Brigade breathed new spirit into the all-seater Celtic Park, aka Paradise to faithful fans.

That’s something few supporters would dispute. The ultras’ youthful defiance combined with their ability to produce stunning visual expressions of cultural identity revitalised matches which had had the life sucked out of them by health and safety rules, corporate interests and heightened sensibilities around sectarianism.

Take the notorious Four Horseman of the Apocalypse display, featuring Neil Lennon, Hector the taxman, Death and Craig Whyte advancing towards beleaguered Rangers, which was unfurled on the last Old Firm derby of the 2012 season. Whatever your loyalties, it would be difficult not to marvel at the creative energy which went into the realisation of that goading image, accompanied by an array of tombstones across Section 111, the part of the stadium the Green Brigade made its own.

Given the way the supporters’ group boosted the atmosphere, it is little wonder the club has often encouraged its activities, trading on its full stadium display to celebrate Celtic’s 125th anniversary before its victory against Barcelona. “I would say there’s a commercial advantage to the club from having a group of fans who, from their own time and energy, talent and money, provide that kind of support,” says Jeannette Findlay of the Celtic Trust.

Yet like Frankenstein’s monster, the left-wing group seems to be veering out of control. As its members’ anger towards the Offensive Behaviour and Threatening Communications at Football Act – a piece of legislation many see as an attempt to criminalise fans – has mounted, they have sung Irish Republican songs with greater gusto and their displays have become more overtly political, incurring the wrath of Uefa. When a banner showing William Wallace and Bobby Sands, which riffed on the old freedom fighter/terrorist paradox, was unfurled at the Champions League match against AC Milan last month, manager Neil Lennon accused them of “going rogue”. Celtic were fined £42,000 for the protest, the fourth time the club has been punished as a result of fan indiscretions in two years.

But it was the behaviour of supporters within Section 111 at the recent match against Motherwell at Fir Park, when flares were set off and seats destroyed, that proved a tipping point. Last week, the club ended the Green Brigade’s dominance by handing out “precautionary suspensions” to 128 of its members, while forcing 250 season ticket-holders housed in Section 111 to move to other parts of the ground or have their season ticket money refunded.

For those who believe the Green Brigade was long ago swallowed up by its own ego, the move was overdue. Closing his parody Twitter account, The Greetin’ Brigade, one supporter wrote: “I’m [now] positive that a line will be drawn in the sand and the proper fans who have the sole objective of supporting the team within the confines of the law, will now have a safe environment to achieve that.”

But for others it is a massive over-­reaction, and a surrender to a prevailing political agenda which wants to outlaw all displays of Irish nationalism. Though no-one condones the ripping up of seats, Celtic fans are quick to point out that such vandalism takes place at other matches (Motherwell fans recently destroyed seats at New Douglas Park) without attracting the same degree of opprobrium.

In any case, those who support the Green Brigade believe last week’s vandalism is a red herring; what its members are really being punished for, they say, is their activism, and they claim that is rank hypocrisy. “We are told politics should be kept out of football, but then the SFA holds a minute’s silence for Mandela,” says one Celtic fan, who is not a member of the Green Brigade. “I have the greatest respect for Mandela, but how can that possibly be seen as anything other than a political statement?”

One could also question the apparent double standards in Uefa’s tolerance of pro-Catalan flags in the Nou Camp and ask whether or not we would disapprove of an Eritrean refugee who wanted to cele­brate his heritage through songs about past battles.

The Green Brigade believes its members have been the victim of heavy-handed policing (although others have pointed out the policing at Fir Park was virtually nonexistent). And it feels particularly aggrieved at the way in which Celtic fans have been arrested for singing Roll of Honour, which commemorates the IRA Hunger Strikers. “This song has nothing to do with supporting any armed organisation but is about remembering the sacrifice of ten ordinary young men who gave their lives in their campaign against criminalisation,” a spokesman tells Scotland on Sunday.

“Nelson Mandela cited Bobby Sands as an inspiration and led his own hunger strike at Robben Island shortly afterwards. It’s ironic that this week football clubs across Europe have celebrated Mandela yet our fans are in the dock for displaying banners depicting Sands.”

The way the Green Brigade highlights such contradictions may not meet with everyone’s approval, but they do raise questions which cannot be easily dismissed. For example, is the new Act a legitimate weapon with which to tackle residual sectarianism or a means by which to clamp down on expressions of Irish identity? And should we really expect sport to exist in a vacuum or accept that – from Barcelona to Cairo to Glasgow – football, nationalism and politics are inextricably intertwined?

The Green Brigade wasn’t formed until 2006, but the ultra movement, which is synonymous with banners, choreographic displays, fireworks and drums, has thrived in other European countries since the late 60s. Though often associated with right-wing ideologies, there are many left-wing ultras such as those attached to Livorno and the Hamburg-based St Pauli, with whom Green Brigade members have struck up a friendship. In north Africa, ultras were instrumental in the Arab Spring, particularly the uprising against President Mubarak in Egypt.

“Our group was not modelled on any others but instead sought to marry ultra culture with the unique identity of the Celtic support,” the Green Brigade spokesman says. “This was not a particularly big leap as our support have always been a bit different to the norm in Scotland and Britain; we’ve always been known for our passion and noise, and have always been proud to show our colours. Given Celtic’s roots, our fans have always been proud of our Irish identity and supported the Irish nationalist cause, and our group naturally followed in this tradition.”

Describing itself as anti-fascist, the group has been involved in political campaigning and charitable work. It organises the biggest bloc on the STUC’s anti-racism march, runs its own annual anti-discrimination football tournament, seeks to engage asylum-seekers and regularly organises food bank collections. After the Scottish Government introduced the new legislation, however, the Green Brigade began to engage in increasingly provocative behaviour. The Act, which became law in 2012, makes it illegal to sing certain songs inside and outside the stadium, on public transport, in streets and pubs, although its many critics point out it was already possible to tackle unacceptable football-related behaviour through existing legislation.

“There has always been a law of breach of the peace and prior to the introduction of the new legislation, people at football grounds were convicted under that law for behaving in a manner that was objectively seen to be offensive,” says Brian ­McConnachie QC. “The situation now is that the police know which area will house the people who are likely to sing those songs, so they film them on their hand-held cameras. They specifically target individuals, then they take the time to look at the footage and work out whether they are singing the song in question. They prosecute them and, at the trial, the only evidence that requires to be led is the evidence of two police officers to say, that’s the guy, here’s the video footage, we heard the singing.

“Nobody in the ground was offended or made a complaint, but nonetheless he’s guilty of that offence and, potentially at least, liable to a custodial sentence. It is crime creation in many ways.”

According to the Green Brigade, victimisation by the police is not confined to taking pictures. “We’ve had fans arrested at airports when returning from family holidays on bogus charges that are dropped as soon as they reach court and supporters dragged from their beds in co-ordinated dawn raids as if they were big-time drug dealers,” the spokesman says.

The Green Brigade has campaigned against the Act with the Celtic umbrella group Fans Against Criminalisation, but it has also produced banners like the one in November 2010, protesting over the placing of a Remembrance Day poppy on a Celtic shirt, and the more recent Bobby Sands one.

To Findlay, such actions are welcome evidence of engagement. “What really gets me in an age when we have young people who are so politically disengaged, is that you take a group of people who are so politically active, so willing to get out and voice an opinion and to work productively with other organisations, and you suggest they’re a problem,” she says. “Well, they’re a problem to the people who don’t want to hear what they’ve got to say, but in terms of society, I would be more worried about the young people who sit around watching Big Brother, those who have no political involvement.”

To others, however, including the man who ran the Greetin’ Brigade, the group has become a “self-indulgent circus act”. Either way, their activities, which have included letting off flares, could be seen as counter-productive, leading not to an early review of the law, but to bad publicity. “I don’t think the Green Brigade are doing themselves any favours” says ­McConnachie. “One wonders how many of the people in their section have a clue what these songs are about. Of course, some do, but I’m sure there are many who are going along with the crowd and it’s just a means of noising up the police.”

And that’s before you address last week’s trouble at Fir Park. Though the Green Brigade denies its members were personally responsible, it admits “that as a group that believes in fan control” it should have policed the section better.

Nevertheless it believes the decision to impose a collective punishment on its members is disproportionate. “We cannot see why the alleged misdemeanours of a small minority of people who may not even stand in our section at 111 should impact on everyone who does,” the spokesman says. “If someone deliberately breaks a seat at a football stadium then they should expect that action will be taken against them, and that they may be banned for a period from football games. However if football clubs here wanted to have better relationships with their fans they would do well to look at some of the models from some clubs in Germany and elsewhere, where fans and club directors work consensually on contentious issues and disciplinary matters.”

Though the brigade laments the loss of its section, it has no intention of giving up its fight against the new law. “Wherever you go, you’ll find that Irish communities (like every other diaspora group) express themselves through music and song, singing about past and present events in their motherland,” the spokesman says. “That’s what [our] fans have always done, whether that was Celtic’s founding fathers singing about the Manchester Martyrs and the Fenians, or my granda’s generation singing for Kevin Barry or James Connolly, or my own remembering Bobby Sands and the Hunger Strikers.

“Now singing about events during conflicts might not be to your personal taste, but the idea that it should be outlawed is utterly ridiculous.”

Nor does the Green Brigade plan to give up its charitable work. A food bank collection outside Celtic Park before the Hearts game will go ahead next Saturday as planned. “We’ve had some great days and fantastic nights in 111 over the past three and a half years of having an official section, so it’s a real disappointment to lose it,” the spokesman says. “It’s definitely not the end of the Green Brigade though. We are far more than just a small section in one corner of Celtic Park, we’re a spirit that will endure and a group of brilliant bhoys and ghirls that will continue to do our thing.”