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Uefa, Celtic and the Guardian. How are we supposed to express our views?

By Tony Attwood

I saw a picture of a Celtic banner at a match recently which said Fuck Uefa.  And I felt 100% agreement with that.

I saw a commentary in the Guardian newspaper (a liberal left broadsheet which has recently done, in my view, enormous good in revealing the extent to which the US government spies on the world, and how the UK government kow-tows to this behaviour) calling this an “indiscretion.”

The context of the article in the Guardian was on the issue of raising banners of political philosophy at football matches.

Now this being Celtic – a club with a long religious tradition – I need to explain my religious position – just to avoid any suggestions that I am on some side other than that which I am on.   I’m not religious in the slightest and don’t support one religious cause against another.  I am an English atheist.  I have no truck with calls for religious freedom until atheists get the same freedoms, which means removing the Bishops from the law making process in my country.

So that’s the context out of the way.  Back to the banner, and I must admit when I see a set of banners that say, “The terrorist or the dreamer, the savage or the brave, depends on whose vote you are trying to catch, or whose face you are trying to save,” I find it interesting, stimulating and the source of a significant level of debate.   Not religious debate but debate on politics, manipulation and control.

Now back to the Guardian’s article.  I found it extraordinarily confused – for it was an attack on the Green Brigade seemingly for bringing politics into football.  And yet football is politics – football is controlled by a fanatical corrupt all powerful tax free group known as Fifa.   By being a willing member of Fifa, my country, England, allies itself with that corruption, and its policy of appeasement towards homophobes, male supremacists and fraudsters.  My view is that what we need is a proper political and philosophical debate in football, starting with a debate on the ethics and morality of the Football Association being a member of the cartel and the clubs failure to break away from any association with Fifa and Uefa.

So for me the interesting thing is that what is not debated in the Guardian article is the question of why political displays are not to be allowed at football matches.   Where does this come from?   Football has the most appalling history of sexism (just read the history of the way the League destroyed women’s football) and self-serving insensitivity – and it seems we are never to engage in this debate at the place where football is played.

Why the Guardian article (which interestingly is unsigned) is so terse and against political action within a football ground is unclear.  Their article, although long, rather has the effect of the person who reads a 1000 word article on Untold with a closely argued point responds by writing in to say,  “You’re typical Arsenal wankers.  Fuck off”.   Writing it may have given the writer pleasure, but it doesn’t actually take the debate on.

The Guardian  quotes the Green Brigade thus:  “It is our opinion that the level of apathy from Celtic PLC towards the criminalisation of their supporters is unforgivable,”   The Guardian’s response was “It was both the latest indication of youthful egos running amok and the lack of regard they have for either their own club or appropriate behaviour.”

That’s pretty much just abuse, and it was the source of abuse that people who try to redefine what is happening in our society suffer.   Our society has repeatedly criminalised different groups of people, ranging from the women of 1910 who fought for the right to vote, to the miners of the same era who fought for the right to a living wage.

Now I found my own way to express the way society criminalises whole groups through the football book “Making the Arsenal”.  It seemed to be a perfectly legitimate way to do this.  Why is a banner at a football match less valid?  Indeed  I have no idea about the issue has developed, and I would have welcomed some insight and information.  I got none.

My point is not that I support the Green Brigade, but I am thoroughly against what I think this Guardian article is saying – that there is no place for politics in football grounds.  This is wrong because football is a political business, and to pull our right to debate the politics, hands yet more power to Fifa and Uefa.  By being associated with Fifa, Uefa is tainted.  By failing to deal with racism across Europe at games, Uefa exists in the same mire as the perpetrators.  By holding people in appalling conditions for days on end for wearing t-shirts with beer adverts on while walking off with millions of pounds in tax free earnings while the poverty of South African townships continues, Fifa sinks to the bottom of the cesspit.   By playing in the Fifa world cup, the FA associates itself favourably with these people.

This is all politics.  OK it is my political rant, but is the Guardian really saying the Celtic supporters are not allowed to vent their political and philosphical views while the disgusting policies of Fifa and Uefa which treat wearing a t-shirt with the wrong beer on it as a far greater offence than overt racist chanting?

To me, it is the behaviour of Fifa and Uefa, and the wow the FA has bowed down to them that gives every single one of us the right to politicise football.  Indeed it demands that we open up the debate on football, the clubs and their political stance.

What is wrong with protesting against the policies of the club, the directors and as the Guardian puts it “Scotland’s political landscape” at a football match?   When the silly little man stood behind Mr Wenger in the West Stand with his “spend some fucking money” no one complained about his right to do it.  I railed against the message, but not about his right to do it.

In fact the papers lapped that scene up.   When Mr Wenger arrived, all the papers were on the steps of Highbury suggesting there was a story about his sexual preferences.   That’s ok is it, while the activities of the Green Brigade is not?

Why?

According to the Guardian’s article (and you’ll notice I am calling it this, because as I stress again it was not signed by an individual) said, “…the Green Brigade has fallen into the trap of believing both their own hype and their significance in relation to a football club which has given them more grace than they were entitled to.”

But then it gets confused.  The article talks about letting off fireworks, and on this I am with them, because that is not a matter of political or social debate.  Any smoke bombs, fireworks etc must be stopped – and indeed I said so in a recent piece.  I want Arsenal to take action against Everton fans. In fact more than that I want Everton to take action.  They can see from the film where the fans were, and they know who they sold those tickets to.   And I feel this because of the damage fireworks and smoke bombs can do.

But the Guardian also says, “The Green Brigade’s standard, domestic displays are dominated by the issuing of left-field messages rather than direct support for Lennon’s successful team.”   OK so why has the Guardian not commented on the fact that for several years the Ems has been dominated by the AAA with some of the most bizarre left field messages football has ever seen?

When Celtic visited Motherwell, smoke bombs thrown and I am told damage was caused to a stand.  I am not supporting that.  I am supporting the right to bring political debate into football, and saying that the fact that it is not brought into football is part of the cause of much of what is wrong with football.

Here’s another Guardian comment…

“Ironically the Green Brigade perceives Scotland’s national police force as somehow out to get them.”

Now in that I have sympathy with the Green Brigade, because for much of my life I have seen members of the English  police force out to get me when I become a football supporter.  I am now in my 60s, but even so just a few years ago – the last time we played Cardiff at their old ground – I saw some of the worst police behaviour against a non-violent non-aggressive crowd.   One group of people were out of control – and it was the police – and it was frightening to be targeted by them.  Sometimes perceiving yourself as a victim is not wrong, because you are the victim.

I am not supporting the Green Brigade in any way because clearly I don’t have the knowledge to be able to argue for or against them.  I am just saying  sometimes the issues need to be debated, no matter how that debate is arranged.

9 comments to Uefa, Celtic and the Guardian. How are we supposed to express our views?

  • Antique Gunmen

    What the hell are you wrote about? And what it means supposed to Arsenal? I believe our freedom of expression in cheering Arsenal is guarding to our own good. Now, what’s wrong with that?

  • Marianne

    The article was posted by Ewan Murray.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Antique Gunmen,
    I think this is another article on this site where we look further than just Arsenal.
    And having another go at Fifa and Uefa at the same time. And this is something we cannot do enough 😉

  • blacksheep63

    I’d echo Walter’s comments to AG above, this site is about football and not just about Arsenal and football.

    Tony I am worried about the Guardian. I have contacts at the FCO who have been the victim of a misguided piece of ‘research’ by a Guardian journalist and they have little right of reply. Some things the paper does (as you point out with the recent expose) fit with its great radical tradition but I stopped buying or reading it ages ago.
    Unfortunately it is becoming little better than any of the other rags on the newsstands and its Saturday magazine is almost a parody of itself. I’m aware also that it is losing money every day and I wonder just how long it can survive.
    I don’t look forward to a world without the Grauniad (the misspelling is deliberate) but I’m very much afraid that is what will happen if it continues to alienate the likes of you and me.

  • Ray from Norfolk, Virginia

    Tony:
    Thank you! This is so pertinent. The Guardian is, in my opinion, a newspaper that belongs to the “established” left, what is called in French “gauchistes de salon” (no relationship to salon.com) where caviar consumption and champagne bottle popping is a way of life, and talk about working class men and women an usurpation of these workers’ rights in the area of self expression. As much as the Tea Party is very much un-libertarian, even from a minimally libertarian right-side of political spectrum viewpoint, the Guardian (a paper I read online to see what the “established left” is plotting) is very much un-libertarian, from a moderately left-wing civil libertarian viewpoint.
    I would like to ask if a banner that states “F**k the PIG; F**k the MOLE; F**k the PGMOL” is reprehensible to the Guardian’s editorial elite? After all, the Guardian is among the most sycophantic of the c**ksuckers who distinguished themselves by glorifying red nose ad vomitum.

  • Pat

    Very thought provoking article Tony. And very pertinent remarks about the Guardian, Ray.

    There’s no escaping politics – they are everywhere. When people say keep politics out, they mean the politics they disagree with.

  • Gooner Murphy

    Tony thank you for a fantastic article, I agree with your stance on this issue, sporting bodies are up to their necks in underhand political deals all governments have abused sports for selfish political reasons for decades one just has to recall the Olympics and the politics of where the world cup finals are held. unfortunately in today’s world it appears there is no such thing as a free press they all seem to have their own agenda and will always be pro establishment therefore if your cause /political believes don’t conform your fare game to them.

  • Green & Red

    Ewan Murray (a Hearts fan) was responsible for that appalling Guardian article, which reveals more about Murray’s own antipathy for Celtic and its fans than it does about the political fight for the soul of the club that is currently being waged between the Celtic PLC board and the Celtic supporters.

  • Steve

    An excellent read, politics is in football whether you push it out or not. Did all grounds not have a mins silence or applause for the late Mandela? With all respect to Mandela how is he any different to the likes of Wallace or sands. They all fought for peace, equality and freedom. As well as Scottish football grounds having yes Scotland campaign hoardings up. I spent the last 2 years with a season ticket next to them. Being intimidated by police filming and scrutinising your every move don’t get me wrong events at Motherwell were unjustifiable but it was an easy excuse for the PLC and lawell to get what they wanted. Over zealous policing is seen all too often. At the end of the day it’s a game of football which people pay vast amounts of money on tickets every year all to get treated like criminals.