When the new season started there was great excitement amongst football fans that they would at last get to see their teams live in action after a hiatus of nearly 18 months due to the lockdown regulations caused by Covi19.
When fans returned at the beginning of August, attendances were kept to a reduced capacity due to Government guidance which was to prevent the spread of the virus amongst big crowds. It was understandable at that point that clubs would only allow home fans in to stadiums as the idea of people travelling long distances in buses and trains was perhaps not to be encouraged due to the concern of speeding the virus more widely.
When Nicola Sturgeon announced that Scotland had moved beyond level zero then football grounds were allowed to be filled to capacity again. Celtic’s first game in front of full house at Parkhead was against St Mirren on 21 August. Some season ticket holders in the main stand had to be relocated due to the exclusion zone needed to space out the players to prevent contact under social distancing.
Celtic announced there would be no St Mirren fans permitted in the stadium that day. This was hugely disappointing for Saints’ fans who wanted to attend and support their team. The hope was that this would be a one off and that away fans would be allowed in Celtic Park in due course. Since then there have been home fixtures against Ross County and Raith Rovers where Celtic have stuck to their guns that away fans won’t be allowed in.
Celtic say this is due to relocating fans from the main stand but, looking at the facts, the figures don’t hold up. Celtic have 53,000 season ticket holders. The number of fans to be relocated from the main stand looks like no more than 1,000. This would easily allow a few hundred opposition fans, at least, to attend any fixture. The truth is it looks as if Celtic can’t be bothered accommodating away fans and it’s not a good look. It looks like away fans are too much an inconvenience so the attitude is, why bother with them? The Raith Rovers game was especially perplexing. The crowd was no more than 30,000 so half the stadium was lying empty, hence the question; why not give Raith a ticket allocation, especially for a cup tie?
Dundee United are due to visit Parkhead on Sunday and they too have been denied tickets for their supporters. There is something inherently unfair that United will have to face Celtic with no support behind them, regardless of how big or small that may be. Jock Stein’s famous quote was that ‘football without supporters is nothing.’ As always the big man was right but he didn’t say ‘Celtic supporters’ he meant all supporters regardless of who they follow. It’s about time the SPFL took a firm stance on this and ensured that away fans get a fair deal at Parkhead in the interest of fair play, and Ibrox for that matter, which only makes Celtic’s stance look even worse. The one club we should make an exception for is Rangers 2012. As they didn’t let Celtic fans attend in August then this will be reciprocated in the next fixture when they come calling to Celtic Park.
And what of Celtic fans who want to attend away games? The club accepted 7,400 tickets for Almondvale last week. That is a screaming sense of entitlement denying away fans entry to your ground whilst accepting 7,400 tickets from an opponent. With away fixtures at Pittodrie, Fir Park, and Easter Road fast approaching then you can be assured Celtic will have a grasping hand out demanding their normal away allocation for those fixtures.
I haven’t met a Celtic fan of my acquaintance yet who is not mortified by the club’s stance on refusing to allow away fans in. For a club who had always prided itself in fairness and transparency this situation is causing reputational damage to Celtic’s good name. It’s perhaps another example of an increasing list of matters in which the board are totally out of touch with the supporters.
There is no excuse for this course of action, Covid or otherwise. Do the decent thing Celtic, and let opposition supporters into Paradise. It’s the right thing to do and you should know that.