One of the big talking points at Celtic this week has been the club’s decision to close off 13 rows of the standing section in the stadium for this Thursday’s match against Rennes in the Europa League.
In a statement released to supporters on Monday evening, the club said they needed to “tackle any behaviour which can compromise the safety of our supporters including the use of pyrotechnics, overcrowding and offensive chanting or banners.”
It comes after UEFA sanctions for similar rules infractions during matches against Cluj and AIK earlier this season, with the club stating that these are harming Celtic’s reputation.
With fan group The Green Brigade now unable to take in the clash against the French side, there could be an atmosphere dip at Celtic Park, with the standing section often so crucial to setting the tempo and atmosphere inside the stadium.
The group released a statement themselves on Tuesday night, which you can read in full via the North Curve Celtic Twitter account. In it they touch on a range of issues and reiterate their desire to support the club positively, so it’s worth taking in, in its entirety.
It remains a complicated and controversial issue, so what should we make of it all? Should fans refrain from using flares? Have the club made the right decision?
67 Hail Hail’s team of writers give their verdicts below.
“It is an unfortunate situation that Celtic’s great run of form has been slightly overshadowed by the fact the board have made this decision. They must feel that it is the right decision, and by taking it hope that lessons will be learned when it comes to flares.
“The empty seats will take away from the atmosphere against Rennes so you can have sympathy with the viewpoint of both sides. However, it would probably be for the best if fans gave it a rest when it comes to flares.
“Hopefully this temporary ban resolves the situation, and the standing section is once more full when Celtic return to the Europa League next year.
“To go on a run in the competition, the Hoops could well need Celtic Park roaring them on to glory. That is why this measure should only be temporary.”
“The most frustrating aspect of the club’s decision to shut the front 13 rows for Thursday’s match – no matter your viewpoint – is that it all seems very needless at such a positive time.
“Neil Lennon and the first-team have helped to end a feeling of despondency that was all too apparent at the club over the summer. They’ve done so with some great performances and results on the pitch. The fans have bought into all of that and more, as has been shown by home and away ticket sales.
“Yet, just as we sit on the crest of a wave, the club have a way of pulling us back down. Thursday’s atmosphere will be a lot less substantial as a result and there may even be a weird feeling in the air.
“Would they have chosen to do this if qualification was still on the line? Was anything achieved by the similar closure against Rosenborg in 2017? It’s hard to say for sure, but in both cases I think not.”
“The Green Brigade make a simply incredible atmosphere – that’s undoubted. They’re fans just like the rest of us, and there’s no denying they play a key role in making Celtic Park as special as it is.
“One of the UEFA rulings came when fans had intentions to protest fascism against Lazio, and that’s perhaps one of the reasons why some supporters feel let down by Celtic’s decision here. There was little support from the club when the Green Brigade took flak for that.
“But all the incidents don’t read well this season. We’ve been charged in the group stage multiple times.
“Celtic obviously feel as though they’re under pressure, and this partial closure could be construed as trying to show UEFA that they’re doing something about it.
“At the end of the day, the Green Brigade know there are rules and the money is only going to keep coming out of the club’s pockets. Both parties need to get together and have a long discussion about how to move forward in the long-term.”