The Daily Record won credit for scooping the off-field story of the week, multiple investigations into singing by Celtic fans, but others are beginning to ask who gave the newspaper details of a police investigation.
The stories broke in an unusual manner, with SFA referee and policeman, Eddie Smith, named as the person who reported Celtic fans to Uefa and the SPL. The officer made what looks like an inexplicable decision after some confrontations inside Celtic Park, without mentioning a word of his concerns to the Celtic security people during the game – the normal procedure for such incidents.
Smith, who has Celtic supporting credentials, was named, providing the perfect foil to deflect accusations that this was some sort of Masonic conspiracy, which it was not. The entire episode is a classic internecine dispute among Celtic supporters, but with the comments made to Uefa, the story was parcelled up for the Record by a Strathclyde Police spokesman.
The Daily Record reported, “A spokesman for Strathclyde Police said: “For Eddie [Smith] to speak to the delegate after the match is nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, it is standard practice””. This is completely irrelevant.
Celtic’s retort in the same article got to the heart of the issue – why the police are speaking to Uefa and the media but not speaking to the club: “This is quite unprecedented as no issues were raised to the club during the match and the police didn’t inform us directly about their concerns.”
Control over media communications from Strathclyde Police falls to Director of Communications, Rob Shorthouse, (pictured on the left). Shorthouse, whose own favourite team have taken a reputational battering from Uefa in recent seasons, despite silence from the police, should be concerned that the force have given newspapers material for three days of screaming headlines instead of addressing the key concern about departure from established procedure. This has only inflamed a volatile situation between Celtic fans and officers on the ground. Shorthouse, who held a similar position at the SFA until two years ago, will be familiar with the sensitivities of football issues.
Perhaps a Freedom of Information request will reveal who leaked a story that laid out details which reflected so badly on Celtic. All we want is equal treatment, as a former chairman once commented.