“The Away Club shall have the right to claim admission for its supporters of up to 20% of the spectator capacity of the Registered Ground at which the Match is to be played.” That, with a small caveat for the Safety at Sports Ground Act, 1975, is the simple rule which governs away ticket allocation at Scottish Cup matches.
It is uncontroversial and has stood the test of time for decades. At Celtic Park, which is the largest ground in the country, it means we are obliged to offer more tickets to away fans than anyone else. Fair enough.
Offering token ticket numbers for Premiership games breaches the time tested safe routes to and from grounds. At Ibrox, for example, 700 Celtic fans were expected to park alongside Newco fans, then walk through them to the top of Broomloan Road – the designated car parking area for Celtic fans was not sufficient to accommodate even a third of that number.
When I was there for such an occasion, we were fortunate that most of the other lot made an early exit from the game, other outcomes are possible. While inside the stadium, glass bottles rained down from the stands towering above Celtic fans.
Where was the Safety at Sports Ground Act, 1975, when this arrangement got the green light, you are entitled to wonder? The same scenario will hold at other grounds if a few hundred away fans are isolated among hostile opposition supporters.
You either make football safe, which Scottish Cup games are and having no away fans are, or you accept there will be actual harm to visiting fans.
Newco are boxed into a corner. They designated part of the stadium for their ultras group where Celtic fans were traditionally accommodated. This meant the ultras had to move for Celtic fans, which they really didn’t like and complained about for years.
With weak leadership, Newco relented, cut Celtic’s allocation and forever damaged the sport. Unwinding this would mean moving their ultras, which is no more possible than Celtic moving 8,000 fans in the Jock Stein Stand, many of whom have been there for 20 years, to relocate their ultras.
When I got home from Ibrox after our win in April last year, I was disturbed that the police were asleep at the wheel in permitting such a dangerous scenario. Event organisers are not the arbiters of what is and is not safe. Newco, Police Scotland and Glasgow City Council have all looked the other way while Celtic acted on what was hard evidence of risk to life and limb.
This is why we have a board of professionals, not weak grifters.