It has reached the stage where our very existence is under serious threat as fans will not continue to pay £500+ to be treated like criminals.
After the disappointment of Tuesday night, we had made it our intention to thank the team for their efforts and once again back them to the hilt. However, it was clear that the police, and indeed club officials, were not going to allow this to happen.
Even before we had even got near Celtic Park, the police had tracked us down at the CSA on London Road. They took our merchandise off of people who had recently purchased it and questioned the staff as to why our members were allowed in the building.
As we approached the stadium and began to enter, some members were told that they were to leave as they had received a football banning order. No warning or explanation was given. Others were greeted by a message at the turnstile after swiping their card that read “suspended for one game.” Again, without any warning or explanation as to why this was the case. These ‘’bans’’ were at the behest of the club and not the police, for reasons still unknown.
We were then approached by a Celtic steward who advised us to be wary when entering the section, as he was advised by Strathclyde Police that they intended to arrest some of our members, and that they were in possession of a ‘wanted’ list with names and pictures of the unfortunate fans who were to be singled out. It was at this point that we decided that we were putting our own members at risk by entering the stadium. As we made our way to the exits, one Focus officer, Tommy McCrindle, was grinning from ear to ear, goading the group into a reaction that fortunately he never got.
It would seem that the police and indeed the club have upped the ante even further in recent weeks. The facts are;
– We are now 10 members down since the turn of the year.
– We have had two members arrested and charged over the ‘zombie’ banner that was unfurled at the Norwich friendly. One of those members was arrested at a busy airport in front of family on arrival from holiday.
– The first of those charged had his first court appearance last week. This was laughed out of court but not before the stress and inconvenience of telling family members, taking time off work and missing big matches.
– Numerous members’ have been harassed at their homes in recent weeks, another clear tactic of intimidation.
This is all done under the say-so of Strathclyde Police’ FoCus unit. Celtic supporters have the same police officers following them week in, week out. This allows them to become familiar with the names and faces of our fans. It would appear that they use this familiarity to try to intimidate us even further. Simple things like name-dropping partner’s names or family members’ names has become an all too common theme. It’s all part of the bullying nature of this unit. The aforementioned McCrindle actually has on his social networking site that his job description is “full-time Fume-a-pest & termite control.” McCrindle was also in the midst of controversy following the Juventus game, as three members were arrested to be charged with a minor breach of the peace which quickly became offensive behaviour at the football, leading to banning orders being made a part of said members bail conditions. McCrindle even went as far as to attempt to pressure the Procurator Fiscal in to ensuring that one of the accused would not even be granted bail. The sad thing is that it’s our money that pays this man’s wages, whilst also affording this unit countless ‘’working holidays’’ to places like Amsterdam, Barcelona and Moscow.
After the last boycott, Peter Lawwell and Neil Lennon publicly expressed their desire to meet with us to iron out any issues we may have. We decided that this was something which we should try to use, so contacted them via a private email about this almost immediately. Sadly, they were ‘too busy’ but would contact us when they were ready. We’re still waiting on them getting back to us about that particular email, although we did receive one prior to the Juventus game with an agenda that in no way mentioned any of the concerns that we outlined. We advised that we weren’t prepared to discuss anything any further with them until our initial request was granted. We are still no further forward with that and as a result, any relationship with the club has completely disintegrated. Since this relationship has broken down the ticket office has become entirely uncooperative with us whilst the chief steward with whom we had a good working relationship with has been moved post.
We have never met with Neil Lennon before but have had numerous dealings with Lawwell in recent years. At almost every meeting, he has made promises that were never kept so this is nothing new. He met our members to discuss the fall-out over the “Let’s go to War banner” that depicted Lennon setting fire to Ibrox and had “Huns FC” written on the stadium. This led to charges and court cases which lasted 18 months for 3 of our members. We had met with Lawwell to discuss this and to see if he could lend his support to the case. Lawwell advised us that he thought the charge was ‘a joke’ and it was his opinion that the term ‘huns’ was in no way offensive. Furthermore, he went onto say he’d be happy for the club to defend us in court. We were clearly delighted with this. However, when our lawyer contacted him about this a few weeks down the line, Lawwell denied all knowledge of the meeting and refused to comment any further. As if that wasn’t bad enough, a senior member of Celtic security, David Brannan, was used as a prosecution witness.
We have heard in the last couple of weeks of meetings involving Lawwell and other Celtic fan groups. At these meetings, Lawwell has made no secret of the fact that he intends to see the end of the group sooner rather than later. He was quoted as saying that he would “give them enough rope to hang themselves.” We were told that Lawwell used CCTV footage of the section to pinpoint who he felt the ringleaders were and picked out a member as someone who ‘had to go’. We have also been informed that other fans groups may have attended similar meetings with Peter Lawwell and if this were the case, we would find it extremely disheartening that we were not informed of the club’s intentions by other Celtic fans. At this stage however Celtic’s agenda seems clear – They are intent on finishing the group off.
Our decision not to attend yesterday’s match was not something that we had planned. We simply felt that it was a decision that had to be made purely to protect our own members and those within 111. It has now gotten to the stage whereby members of our group live in constant fear of the police showing up at their homes or workplace with a trumped up charge, or to be told that they are banned from football matches as they approach the gates of 111. Now, more than ever, the continued support of the rest of the Celtic fans is appreciated immensely. We cannot stress enough that if things do not change for the better, the group will be unable to continue to attend matches to support the club that we all love.