Earlier this year I wrote that the pyrotechnics problem was one of the free rider. There are reputational and Uefa fine costs to Celtic, but the perpetrators hide among a crowd, so encounter no costs. Celtic pay the fines, Celtic fans, as a group, carry the reputational damage, those who create the problem act with impunity.
Two who set flares in Istanbul have been identified and banned by the club. This ban will prevent them attending away fixtures in Europe for a considerable time, but it will not prevent them walking through turnstiles at Celtic Park, or some other Scottish grounds. Celtic have announced that they are considering their position and may raise a civil action to recover fines imposed –aligning consequences with actions.
Whenever I hear someone ‘considering their position’ I don’t expect them to act. Those who act tend to only provide advanced notice when legally obliged to do so. There is a flip side to this, however. If Celtic raise an action the issue is dead – it will not happen again. If Celtic don’t raise an action it may well happen again. Steps to hide identities will be improved, perhaps making it impossible to identify another offender. The stock defence of football clubs, “We’ve done everything we could”, will not wash.
It’s only 12 years since 80,000 Celtic fans went to Seville and didn’t so much as spill a drink. What chance that now?
When they were at their peak, 1.2million miners went down the pits in Britain. Before the pits, the population of Lanarkshire was a fraction of what it is now. They build railways in the late 19th century, allowing coal to be taken to the cities and ports, and people were drawn to places like Bellshill, Motherwell, Coatbridge and Wishaw.
This subsequent years saw the greatest migration from Ireland to Scotland, and an enormous migration from rural to urban Scotland. People came to Lanarkshire to work in the coal industry, and to Glasgow and other surrounding towns to work related industries, like shipping and heavy engineering.
The work was almost always dirty, often dangerous and inevitably poorly paid. Poverty and its associated diseases, including social diseases, were difficult to escape. Even today, the twin towns of Hamilton (a market town established for centuries) and Motherwell (a 19th century town established by the coal and steel industries) are separated by a significant gap in employment opportunities, property values and wealth. Physically they are only two miles apart, you can walk between them in minutes.
Football was the real opium of the masses. They worked five and a half days a week, on their half day they went to a game. Entrance was cheap, even the poor could attend, all boys could play, all men could talk a good game (it remained a predominantly male pastime for decades).
Coal, and its by-products: railways and heavy industry, shaped the industrial towns of Scotland, Wales and much of England. Without it, cricket would be our national game (it was once popular even in Scotland). You wouldn’t have Celtic.
Today the last miner will emerge from a British pit, in Kellingley, North Yorkshire. The pits around Lanarkshire are long gone, and there are few bings left. Jobs now are cleaner and safer, but we’ve lost a link to something Celtic fans value more than most, our heritage.
Speaking of which, get to Celtic Park before 13:00 tomorrow. Wallow in the abundant heritage that is Billy McNeill!
We’re shipping same day from CQN Bookstore, but there’s not long left before Christmas!