Celtic's Dubai trips are contrary to the club's founding values

By Euan Davidson

January 5, 2021

I am proud to be a Celtic supporter.

It’s not just about football, to me. Celtic represent openness, fighting for the underdog communities in Scotland. It’s a club “open to all” and supposedly lives by that mantra.

The Bhoys signed the first Indian player in the UK, in Mohammed Salim. We signed Gil Heron, the father of influential poet, musician and activist Gil-Scott Heron, in 1951.

Our history suggests that we’ve accepted people from all walks of life. In recent years, better attempts have been made to welcome the LGBTQ community at Celtic Park (Celtic FC). We have a widely supported LGBTQ supporters club in Proud Huddle CSC.

We were also the first club to publish our own club-specific publication, the Celtic View (Celtic Wiki). In the past, the club have had no problem letting fans know about what’s happening at the club, with a kind view of journalism in general.

So why, then, are the club continuing to visit Dubai?


In Dubai, workers live and work in difficult conditions without adequate rights. / (Photo by Ghaith Abdul Ahad/Getty Images)

Human rights, Celtic wrongs

Dubai, and the UAE in general, have a spotty record in terms of human rights. According to Human Rights Watch:

“The United Arab Emirates (UAE) arbitrarily detains and unjustly imprisons individuals who criticize the authorities. Imprisoned activists are held in prolonged solitary confinement and, in some cases, beyond completion of their sentences. Families of activists suffer unrelenting harassment at the hands of the state security apparatus.”

According to Amnesty International, people who have spoken out against the leadership in the UAE have faced unimaginable cruelty:

“Lebanese prisoner Ahmad Ali Mekkaoui was placed in incommunicado detention in April after new charges were imposed on him “for harming the reputation of the UAE” following a television interview in which his sister and his Lebanese lawyer spoke about his case.

“He was serving a 15-year prison sentence after being convicted on terrorism-related charges in 2016 and arrested by the SSA in 2014.”

Mekkaoui is just one who have testified against the authorities in the UAE, who has spoken out about the horrific torture methods and emotional abuse in Emirati prisons.

Meanwhile, the club speak about “promoting health and well-being, understanding and positive social integration.”

It reads a little hollow in the context.


Celtic training in Dubai last year / (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group via Getty Images)

For a pro-immigration club, it’s a bad look

With Celtic’s obvious history of being a club for the Irish diaspora in Glasgow and the poor of the city’s East End, it’s galling that they’re willingly spending money in Dubai.

The UAE adopts a no-minimum wage policy (Amnesty International), meaning that non-payment of wages or colossal underpayment of migrant workers is widespread. This is despite non-UAE nationals comprising 90% of the workforce.

Migrant workers have no health, housing or educational benefits, and rely on their meagre wages to cover basic needs.

This is a situation that should make anyone uncomfortable. The Celtic Foundation and the Green Brigade have raised funds for people adversely affected by the Coronavirus. Yet the club are willing to tacitly support a regime which refuses basic health and housing needs to 90% of its working population.

It seems wilfully ignorant at best, and hypocritical at worst.

Celtic captain Scott Brown has supported LGBTQ causes / (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group via Getty Images)

Discrimination against women and LGBTQ people

The human rights issues don’t stop at work; they affect the home.

According to Amnesty International:

“The Personal Status Law of 2005 states that “a husband’s rights over his wife” include the wife’s “courteous obedience to him” (Article 56), and places conditions on a married woman’s right to work or leave the house (Article 72). Under Article 356 of the Penal Code, “debasement of honour with consent” is punishable by one year or more in prison.”

Meanwhile, according to Human Rights Watch: “Emirati laws discriminate against migrants, women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals.”

So why, then, are Celtic enjoying repeated trips to the region?

Why is the board, who revel in fan noise and songs about “famine and oppression”, happy to continue supporting nations which carry out abuses against women and LGBTQ people?

How on earth could a club that knows its fans continually support oppressed groups across the world, including Palestinians, yet travel to and spend money in an area which openly discriminates and oppresses its populace?

We can’t answer these questions. Only the hierarchy at Celtic can explain why these mid-season trips are appropriate, even outside the limitations of a global pandemic.