On the Monday after the 1970 Scottish Cup quarter-final match between Celtic and Rangers at Parkhead, a match which Celtic had won 3-1 and which had caused crowd misconduct inside the ground and outside, a widely read Scottish newspaper said: “The most likely outcome is that the S.
On the Monday after the 1970 Scottish Cup quarter-final match between Celtic and Rangers at Parkhead, a match which Celtic had won 3-1 and which had caused crowd misconduct inside the ground and outside, a widely read Scottish newspaper said: “The most likely outcome is that the S. F. A. will censure both Old Firm clubs and order warning notices to be posted at Celtic Park-the normal procedure after crowd trouble at games . . . The home club is generally held responsible for crowd behaviour-no matter which fans cause the trouble.” The man in the street cannot be criticised for not being fully acquainted with the rules which govern football, but there's no excuse for a newspaper being so badly out of touch.
Here is the Scottish Football Association rule (or article of association) which specifically applies to such a situation as occurred in March of last year: “Each club in membership shall be responsible for the conduct of it's spectators on any ground and misbehaviour by spectators during or at close of matches shall render a member liable to fine, or closure of ground, or suspension, or all of those penalties . . .” Some of us won have been connected with Celtic Football Club for a long time can let those words trip from our tongue without the slightest stumbling or hesitation; Celtic know the rule and have suffered for it.
Whether the rule is good or bad, whether it is fair to hold a club responsible for its spectators (or followers, because that’s what the rule means by spectators) is beside the point. The clubs have the right and the opportunity, if and when they wish, to remove the rule, or amend it in any way they choose .
The point is that the rule decrees that each club is responsible for the conduct of its spectators: the rule does not say that the home club is responsible no matter which ‘fans’ cause the trouble. The significant feature of the trouble in the match referred to is that for such misconduct as occurred within Celtic Park followers of Rangers were primarily and generally to blame. Anyone who was present and who was willing to believe his eyes could not argue against that. The players and officials of Celtic and Rangers were summoned to a meeting with the S.F.A.
disciplinary committee, and the Glasgow magistrates blamed the two captains, each of whom had been “booked” by the referee, for not setting a proper example. That’s about the extent to which the authorities went. Their action or, as some may prefer, their lack of action, I do not intend to comment upon now, other than to repeat that the balancing act to which I have made reference had again been performed most satisfactorily. It hadn’t always worked out this way. I would like to draw attention to the football authority’s treatment of crowd misconduct at Ibrox Stadium in I94I and to their correct application of the rule - correct even though Celtic were the sufferers and the only sufferers.
The occasion was a Southern Scottish League match. Celtic’s outside-right, Jimmy Delaney, was flung into Rangers’ net and injured as he tried to make contact with a corner-kick. A penalty-kick was awarded, and after a strong protest against the award by some of Rangers’ players Frank Murphy failed to score from the kick. The initial disturbance on the terracing was caused in my opinion and in that of many others, not excluding Rangers’ supporters, by the protest of Rangers’ players. But after the penalty-kick was missed everyone knew who was responsible for the misbehaviour that took place. A section of followers of Celtic threw bottles and other missiles, all of which endangered only other Celtic supporters who were nearer to the playing-pitch and police and ambulance men. On September 18, 1941, the Scottish Football Association closed Celtic Park for a month.
That may have been a severe punishment for Celtic. The point is that the powers that were acted according to the rule and acted within their right. I must emphasise that. They acted in the knowledge that the serious disorder had been caused by spectators, followers, supporters - describe them as you like-of the visiting club, the Celtic club, and they punished the visiting club, Celtic. They did not take action against the home club, as the foolish newspaper opinion of 1970 suggested. Older Celtic supporters will recall that Celtic played their home games during the period in which Celtic Park was closed, by permission of Clyde at Shawfueld Stadium. Younger Celtic supporters who may not have been informed by their seniors about this closure will probably be astonished at it in the light of many things that have happened since. Now with the closure of Celtic Park in the background and with the rule that applied having been given prominent mention, I must turn to the time when a punishment was meted out to Celtic that could have finished the club as an Association football club. I refer to the case of “The Flag”.
First of all, and again with the purpose of explaining the background, it is right and fair that I should speak of the “Flag” case in the context of what happened a few months earlier, even though this means making further reference to Celtic responsibility for conduct that was reprehensible.
I feel strongly that only if one admits one’s own faults can one point out the faults of others. On November 3, 1951 Charlie Tully was ordered off in a home game with Third Lanark. When he appeared before the referee committee he was suspended for a month. The referee and linesmen had reported that they had received a hostile reception at the end of the match, and one of the linesmen complained of assault by spitting. That was included in the referee’s report.
Celtic were instructed to post warning bills, and when the council of the S.F;A. met to consider the referee committee’s minutes of their meeting at which the decisions were taken I raised the matter of the club punishment. I pointed out that the police had considered they had had sufficient numbers at the match to give them adequate control and that when the referee amd linesmen lelt the pitch they had been escorted by six uniformed constables under the direction of a sergeant and supervised by the assistant chief constable of Glasgow. I therefore contested the complaint of spitting and I offered to produce statements by the police that they had not seen the behaviour complained of and that no complaint had been made to them at the time. The general reaction of the S.F.A.
council was, however, that no other evidence than the linemans’s was required. The assumption was, as it has been in many more cases, that the S.F.A. referee committee, and after them the councillors who had to approve or disapprove of the committee’s findings, were concerned first and foremost, and indeed entirely, with what appeared in the referee’s report. The then chairman of the referee committee Mr. John Robbie told the council that Celtic would have to warn spectators that a repetition of such conduct might lead to serious action being taken against the club, including possible closure of ground.
This, then, was the background to the case of “The Flag”. Celtic were in trouble because of alleged misconduct by some of their spectators. Note that in this connection I say “alleged”, because it was abundantly clear that, though a section of the spectators had indeed given the referee and linesrnen a hot reception at the finnish, the crux of the complaint had not been proved. But what they said or did not say was the be-all and the end-all, so far as the S.F.A. were concerned. We must remember this.
Then on January I, 1952, came another instance of crowd misconduct at a Celtic-Rangers match. The Glasgow magistrates met to consider incidents that had occurred at the match at Celtic Park and then invited the S.F.A.
and the Scottish League to consider the following proposals: 1- That the Rangers and Celtic clubs should not again be paired on New Year’s Day, when, it was suggested, passions were likely to be inflamed by drink and when more bottles were likely to be carried than on any other day. 2 - That on every occasion when those clubs meet admission should be by ticket only and the attendance limited to a number consistent with public safety, the number to be decided by the chief constable. 3 - That in the interests of the safety of the public Celtic F.C. should be asked to construct numbered passageways in the terracing at each end of Celtic Park. 4 - That the two clubs should avoid displaying flags which might incite feeling among the spectators. Now this is what the referee committee of the S.F.A. did. They instructed Celtic to warn the irresponsible section of their supporters by all available means that any further misbehaviour would endanger the continuance of football at Celtic Park for a long time.
Then came the real, authoritative order-they instructed us to stop displaying in our ground on match days any flag or emblem which had no association with Scotland or football. A further order given to Rangers and ourselves was that all possible steps should be taken to prevent spectators from flaunting provocative flags or emblems and to discourage any display of sectarian sentiments. The committee felt that they were the root cause of the disturbances.
But they did not go even a step of the way to probing the matter of sectarian sentiments. Nobody who knew anything about sectarianism as it applied in football and who was also fair-minded disputed that the major cause of Celtic-Rangers trouble was the policy of Rangers regarding religion. It was as true in 1952 as it is today that one remedy, often proposed or suggested, has never been tried. That remedy is for Rangers to change their policy of refusing to have a Roman Catholic player on their books. Perhaps Celtic of all clubs should be relieved that Rangers will not have a Catholic. It has been obvious from the playing point of view that Rangers have wittingly and willingly handicapped themselves by barring Catholics.
They do not even have the excuse that such a policy is outlined in the constitution of their club.
Further more they are not prepared even to discuss the matter. Celtic in the matter of religion are different. The strange thing is that we at Parkhead could justifiably pursue a policy of fielding only Catholics because of the fact that the club was formed by Catholics , and not only Catholics but many were of Irish Republican stock that we should also never forget .
But right from the institution of our great club we have stated that players of any creed or colour were welcome at Celtic Park so long as they were prepared to do their best for Celtic. I do not in this year of grace have to compile a list of the many distinguished Celtic players who have been non-Catholic. Away back in the 1890’s a Celtic committee member, the equivalent of a director today, proposed in view of the religious denomination of the majority of the club’s supporters, a limitation of the number of Protestants in the team to three, but he was defeated. A counter-motion (according to the minutes of the monthly meeting of Celtic’s general commitee on March 31, 1895) that the club sign as many Protestants as they wished was carried. The position is no different today.
Perhaps someone with more intimate knowledge of Rangers than I have will name a Catholic who has made his name for Rangers----that is to say in modern times. Would it be correct to say that the last regular first-team player Rangers fielded was Dr. Willie Kivlichan, who played for them in the early 1900’s before he joined Celtic? A properly conducted inquiry into the causes of sectarian troubles in football could not possibly omit consideration of Rangers’ unwritten law and the effect it has on the game and on spectators. This is surely an appropriate point to introduce another instance of pitiful ignorance by a newspaper of the facts of “Old Firm” life.
Shortly after the Celtic-Rangers Scottish Cup tie of 1970, to which I have made several references, a “quality” paper had this to say in a leading article:--“It should be the aim of Rangers and Celtic to work towards the time when the religions of their players are no longer of any relevance.” To return to the S.F.A. referee committee’s orders. Though they made no particular reference, “the flag or emblem which had no association with Scotland or football” was the flag of the Irish Free State, or the Republic of Ireland, as the south of that country is now known.
This was the flag that the commitee wanted removed. Note that they had not agreed with the magistrates’ proposal that “the two clubs should avoid displaying flags which might incite feeling among the spectators. " What flag at Ibrox could have incited feeling? Obviously it was the Union Jack, which then as now is waved by Rangers‘ followers not as an indication of their patriotism but as an indication of their dislike of Celtic and Catholics. Let us examine closely this intriguing flag situation.
Because of their association through the people who founded the club, Celtic right from the start flew the flag of Ireland----the former united Ireland----the old Irish flag with its golden harp on a background of green. In 1921, on that part of Ireland other than the Six Counties becoming the Free State, Celtic substituted the flag of the new state, the tricolour of green, white and orange-a flag which had been presented to them by the Free State government. If this had been the only flag flown officially at Celtic Park one could have understood a point of view that maintained it was provocative. But Celtic have always also flown the Union Jack, though until the S.F.A.-Celtic flag row few outwith Parkhead seemed to be aware of that. Indeed if anyone had asked a Celtic supporter 20 years ago-and asked him outwith the precincts of Celtic Park what flag or flags were flown on Celtic property he would almost certainly not have known. I recall with a great deal of amusement a newspaperman telling me just after the “flag” trouble began that he had paid through the turnstiles one Saturday to hear for himself the public reaction to the S.F.A. decree that Celtic should take the tricolour down. As he climbed the terracing at what is traditionally the Celtic end he heard spectator after spectator asking: "Where’s this bloody flag?”, or words to that effect.
It was not until many folk reached the higher part of the terracing and could look around the ground that they spotted the flag that was causing the furore flying from the city end of the covered enclosure or “The Jungle” as it was then known. And only when they looked across to the stand did they see the Union Jack flying from its usual position.
I should like to point out here that not only has the Union jack always flown at Celtic Park but that Celtic can say without fear of contradiction that they have always played under the Union Jack, since that flag has never flown from anywhere else at Parkhead than the highest part of the ground, the roof of the stand.
The newspaper man had another tale to tell of his unorthodox visit to Celtic Park. The match he saw-which was incidental to his purpose-was between Celtic and Stirling Albion. The game was progressing unexcitingly to an easy win for Celtic-they were leading 3-0-when Charlie Tully went on one of his mazy runs, at the end of which he cut in along the bye-line and, enticing the goalkeeper to his near post, cut the ball back to John McPhail, who was no more than eight yards from the unprotected goal.
Our centreforward made an awful mess of his shot, the ball slicing wide of goal and in the direction of the “flag” end of the “Jungle”, whereupon a green-and-white scarved “fan” looked up to the tricolour and shouted:-“Take the bloody thing doon, noo!” Take it from me, however, there was no time for banter or joking in the weeks before and after that. When the S.F.A. council met to consider their committee’s findings they voted by 26 to 7 in favour of the recommendations.
As chairman of Celtic I moved the rejection of that part of the minute which dealt with the banning of the flag, and my proposal was seconded by none other than the chairman of Rangers, Mr. John F. Wilson, senior. Mr Wilson said, as I had done, that the flag was not the cause of trouble. Celtic and Rangers have often not seen eye to eye, but the Ibrox club must be given credit for the attitude they adopted on this occasion. My main reason for opposing the ban was not, however, my opinion that the flag was not responsible for sectarian trouble. I was against the decision because I felt that nothing in the rules of football gave the S.F.A.
the right to impose such a penalty. Despite long and sometimes heated discussion not one person in the chamber refuted my argument that the decision was a breach of the rules. Also, not one person who spoke said that the flag was the cause of the disturbances.
Mr. Wilson even told his fellow-councillors that It had not been of any annoyance to Rangers! The acting chairman of the referee committee who had moved the adoption of the minute and the council member who seconded him expressed sympathy for Celtic in the position in which they found themselves. The tenor of their statements was that Celtic should still accept the instruction ---- it was not a punishment, they said-even though I had shown them why the S.F.A.
had no power to issue such an instruction. I left that council meeting as bewildered as I was angry. If the S.F.A., in their wisdom or lack of it, had made the fullest use of Article of Association 131 and imposed the penalties, even including closure of ground, stated in that rule, I could have at best pleaded for leniency. But now the SFA.
were apparently refusing to recognise their own rule. What was going on? I knew, of course, that suspension of Celtic or closure of Celtic Park would hit financially clubs other than Celtic and that implementation of such penalty or penalties would have been very difficult to enforce. In other words those who voted for such penalties could be cutting off their nose to spite their face. The Celtic board consulted counsel.
Strengthened by the opinion they received, they continued to fly the offending flag. Some of us remembered that nearly 20 years before the tricolour had annoyed members of the Irish Football Association when they were at Parkhead for a Scotland-Ireland International-or so we were informed by a Scottish official. I and my colleagues on the board were by this time convinced that some one or other was having a “go” at Celtic in a way which they reckoned would hurt deeply and in the knowledge that they wouldn’t get the necessary support to punish us as the rule enabled them to do. One who never seemed far away when any kind of case was being made against Celtic was the secretary of the Association, Mr. George (later Sir George) Graham. I do not think I am being either unfair or unkind when I comment that Mr.
Graham had a way of leading football’s legislators from behind and that he was on many occasions a much more powerful man in Scottish football than he had any right, as a paid official, to be . In addition he certainly could never have been accused of being pro-Celtic! At the next S.F.A. council meeting Celtic’s “defiance” was considered. One of the expressions used was-“Anarchy against democratic government”. Again when I recall that choice of words I permit myself a smile. But it was no joke then. A motion by the acting president, Mr. Harry Swan, that the club should be given three days to comply with the order or suffer suspension, was seconded. But the penny dropped. The members realised that if the suspension became fact the Scottish League competition would be seriously interrupted and several clubs would suffer. Having admitted this, they merely admitted how they would have reacted had Celtic been told in the very first instance that they were suspended. By the narrow margin of 16 to 15 the council decided to extend the date of the start of suspension to April 30, the end of the season. Celtic were on the way to victory now. I was positively embarrassed by the persistent requests I received and the advice I got just to make a gesture of acceptance of the instruction and everyone could get together again and tackle the matter over again. I was even told in council that I would go down in history as the “biggest man in Scottish football” if I would only see that the flag was taken down temporarily , and enable the council to say that their decision had been accepted.
My final words in council were that in the history of Scottish football the only times suspension of an individual or a club had been imposed was when a rule had been proved to have been broken and suspension was a decreed punishment for the proven breach.
How could Celtic be suspended when no one could point to them having broken a rule? Three weeks before the date decided for the expiry of the ultimatum the S.F.A. changed their tune and without a protest cancelled their instruction.
This was to allow the SFA. and the Scottish League to reconsider the whole business. The astonishing thing was that the SARA. turned about-face with a statement which did not include mention of the word “Celtic” or the word “‘Flag”. Reference to “suspension of a club” was deemed sufficient. One outcome of the S.F.A.-League meeting was that the S.F.A. delegation agreed to consult the League if ever there was likelihood of suspension of a club. More important, a further extension of the ultimatum to May 14 was made.
Celtic were now practically in the clear. At the end of the season, Glasgow Charity Cup and all, we took the flag down. But we never complied at any time with the shocking order for the simple reason that the flag was flown only on the days when the first team were playing at home! We were encouraged to make such a nominal submission.
The club wrote to the S.F.A. that they were bowing to the order under protest. That was good enough. Before the start of the new season a specially convened meeting of the S.F.A. defeated by 18 votes to 13 a newly worded motion to the effect that the flag should come down. It remains flying at Celtic Park on first-team match days; It does not have so much prominence as it used to have, though I must repeat that it was unduly prominent only to those who sought out provocation or trouble. The tricoloul is nowadays one of several flags of the countries of the world which fly over the covered enclosure across from the stand. At one time, not long after we had survived the battle with the S.F.A.
I was of a mind to remove the flag on the grounds that some of our followers had, since the row with the S.F.A., made increased efforts to wave it in a provocative manner. After long consideration, however, my fellow directors and I decided against removal. The principal reason was that we felt that the memory of those who had presented Celtic with the Irish flag in the first instance would be insulted by such removal. Furthermore we were no less keen to be proud of our inception and the men who made it possible. But we were-and still are-strongly opposed to people who think they are Celtic supporters making use of the tricolour to show their dislike and even hatred of others.
We deplore the use of the tricolour in the way the Union Jack is used by Rangers’ followers, and we have gone to great lengths to discourage Celtic followers from such use. Repeatedly in our club newspaper and in our club programmes and from platforms all over the country official spokesmen of Celtic have criticised those who carry the Republic flag to matches.
We have emphasised the fact that we strongly disapprove of what is no more or less than prostitution of the flag and we are not disposed to consider as a reason for carrying or waving the flag the fact that another section of the public do likewise with the Union Jack. Both sections are in the wrong. What would have happened had we been compelled by our own beliefs and consciences to have gone to court to fight the SEA. instruction? That is, of course, a hypothetical question. What would not have happened was the destruction of Celtic Football Club.
To alter slightly a popular Celtic crowd expression-one that has been sung fervently on more than one occasion of great joy-we would not have been moved.
From Robert Kelly's book Celtic
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