Celtic fans were repeatedly chastised for protests; rival fans' bigotry goes unpunished

By Euan Davidson

January 6, 2021

When the Bhoys visited Ibrox on Saturday, it was a day already fraught with emotion for both Celtic and Rangers fans.

On the anniversary of the Ibrox Disaster (The Guardian), all pre-match attention was on how both clubs would commemorate the traumatic scenes of 1971.

The eeriness of the occasion was particularly marked, with the Glasgow Derby being played to an empty stadium. In the end, both Celtic and Rangers marked the anniversary with wreaths laid upon the Ibrox turf.

Celtic’s board have been criticised for a great number of things. When it comes to the moments that unite both sets of fans, however, there’s a classiness to Celtic that is endearing.

Both clubs acted with the utmost sincerity and respect. It was a touching scene which would’ve reminded all concerned that there’s more to life than football. The last year has made that fact incredibly clear.

Which made it particularly depressing to watch the video posted on the Daily Record’s website the same day.

The Celtic bus arrives at Ibrox / (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group via Getty Images)

No fans inside, yet Celtic v Rangers subject to bigotry

The depths that bigots will sink to are truly incredible. For those that don’t necessarily want to watch the video, let me be clear: it’s full of the vile, disgusting anti-Catholic sentiment that shames a section of the Rangers support.

The Celtic squad were met outside Ibrox by Rangers “supporters” on a day as profound in history as Saturday, who saw fit to call the players “papist c****s”. That’s one of the more printable quotes from the video.

There’s actual video evidence of this. It’s unequivocally the case that Celtic staff were subject to heinous, racist abuse while at work. In 2021, when folk are meant to be staying at home and not congregating, some “supporters” saw fit to come out to Ibrox, just to yell bigoted remarks at professional sportsmen.

It’s utterly pathetic behaviour. Yet, no arrests were made.

Celtic, for their part, released a statement through a spokesperson for the club (Sky Sports). They said:

“The sectarian abuse suffered by our players and staff is completely unacceptable.

“We have raised this issue with Police Scotland and they have confirmed they are investigating the matter. Clearly, we would hope that all efforts are made to identify those responsible and for all appropriate action to be taken.”

Compare all this to the scenes outside Celtic Park over recent months. After the St. Johnstone match, two fans were arrested for protesting against the board (BBC). There were also numerous arrests resulting from fan action the week before (Glasgow Evening Times).

This isn’t to say that those arrests weren’t justified. However, it looks awful for the police that they’re unwilling to make instant arrests for hate crimes.

This, despite much-heralded strategies aimed at tackling sectarianism back in 2018 (Scotsman). The police were there, and they must’ve been able to see who was spouting this hateful nonsense at the Celtic staff.

Police outside Celtic Park / (Photo by Alan Harvey/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Utter hypocrisy

This goes beyond football; it should appall anyone in their right mind.

Nobody should be subject to discrimination and abuse at their work. There is a stark difference between a large group of fans getting carried away singing songs, and individuals pointedly shouting at other individuals as they exit a bus.

And yet? It’s clearly not as important to police as some people protesting outside a stadium.

Look, nobody wanted the scenes outside Celtic Park to happen like they did. For what it’s worth, we agree that the Celtic supporters were right to demonstrate. When the Celtic Trust organised a peaceful, distanced demonstration, it showed that protest could be done safely.

But if you’re willing to tell me that individuals protesting outside Celtic Park were more worthy of arrest, I simply cannot agree.

The silence on this in the media and in our culture more broadly has sent a message in itself. To the police, it’s clearly not a big deal. That empowers the next bunch of knuckle-draggers who want to shout about the Pope to some footballers.

Celtic have made mistakes, undoubtedly, and I’m not trying to bring a sense of “whataboutery” into this, because it’s not useful.

That said, it seems like wildly hypocritical policing and it’s a ridiculous situation.

Equally, I’m not willing to paint all supporters of the Ibrox club with the same brush. I know plenty of current and ex-Rangers supporters who are beyond disillusioned with the sectarianism they’ve heard at football matches.

However, if the police, the Government and both clubs are genuinely enthusiastic to put a stop to bigotry, then turning a blind eye to it on a day like Saturday does nothing to help.