Despite almost universal opposition, both within and out-with Holyrood, the SNP succeeded in steamrollering on to the statute book its vindictive bill effectively to facilitate the criminalisation of Celtic supporters in (at least) equal measure to those of an opposite persuasion. The lunatics, it seems, may, indeed, have finally taken over the asylum.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that what we’ve seen so far is only the thin end of the wedge. We’re talking, here, about “offensive” behaviour, songs, chants, practices etc … a very vague, woolly concept – and wide open to highly selective and targeted interpretation and exploitation.
No longer does anything need to be overtly “sectarian”, or “racist” to attract the disapproving attentions of Scots Law – just “offensive”. Imagine how readily, certain narrow-minded sections of this society will find the legitimate, everyday behaviour of Celtic supporters, “offensive”. Unless we’re very careful … or clever … we’ll find ourselves portrayed no longer as victims but as the official bad guys; and the heat of the spotlight will be well and truly off the real bigots.
We’ve all known from the outset what the agenda is, though; and pre-Udinese, I was backing the good sense and natural intelligence of the vast bulk of the Celtic support to see off the most obvious threats. However, last Thursday night was a game changer – and as there will be many other, both blatant and subtle, traps set from here on in, extreme vigilance must be the keyword going forward.
A little bit more support from our Celtic Park hierarchy wouldn’t be amiss, either. All too often they seem a tad too ready to meekly bend the knee in deference to an unforgiving establishment – to wit, their abject failure to put up any kind of defence against that recent UEFA “illicit chanting” sanction (whatever that term actually means).
Not, mind you, that I’m defending the disputed IRA singing and chanting, or asking the directorate to. I don’t personally think there’s any place for that sort of stuff in the name of publicly supporting Celtic. But the Board might, at least, have pointed to the diametrically opposite SPL response to precisely the same charge, highlighting the consistent strenuous efforts of the club to banish such contentious shenanigans.
Oh, for an official club spokesman of the style, eloquence, courage and clout of a George Galloway – applications on the back of a Havana cigar label, please!
Such a principled stance may, or may not, have influenced the subsequent thinking of the Udinese banner bhoys – but now that the situation has been seriously aggravated by that incident, I fear the worst. Instead of boxing clever to neuter the devious intent of the Offensive Behaviour at Football bill, which, as recent events have shown, has ramifications well beyond Scottish borders, certain factions within the Celtic support seem determined to tackle the issue head-on in the form of defiant direct action. Arguably admirable, up to a point … but misguided, I fear – tantamount to playing right into our would-be detractors hands, Bhoys!
Whatever … a huge bear trap is looming at our place later this month – let’s not stumble blindly, or defiantly, into its gaping jaws …