A Club Open to All? | Why Celtic and Politics Need to Mix

THIS ARTICLE IS FROM THE 8TH EDITION OF THE CYNICAL, OUR FREE ONLINE MAGAZINE.

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Erin Slaven, a founding member of the On The Baw campaign for free sanitary products at football grounds, argues why when it comes to Celtic, football and politics need to be mixed in order for the club to be true to its self-proclaimed status of openness.

Celtic being a self-proclaimed ‘club open to all’ is a source of pride for the majority of Celtic fans. From the founding of the club in 1888 to the ongoing political statements of its support, Celtic’s colours are nailed to the mast – in more ways than one.

It’s interesting to consider the impact of having such a title. ‘A Club Open to All.’ We’re all very quick to boast about our inclusivity but there continues to be considerable conflict surrounding any political endorsements of the Celtic support. A lot of this stems from the mixed consensus on whether ‘politics and football’ should mix. I’m afraid that, being a Celtic fan, we don’t really have much choice.

The Club was, of course, established with the founding principle of the ‘maintenance of dinner tables for the children and the unemployed.’ This was an inherently political statement to make in a Glasgow where a great deal of the children and unemployed were Irish immigrants – the presence of whom was a source of unrest for many. This was in 1888 (technically, 1887) and the intrinsic political roots of our club should be nurtured. For me, the establishment of our Club can be simplified as such – a stand against injustice. Thousands of Irish immigrants were hungry, unemployed and desperate. They needed help and our club provided it.

So – how are we maintaining these roots? Let’s consider the flying of Palestinian flags at Celtic Park during a fixture against Israeli side Hapoel Beer Sheva in July 2016. The Green Brigade flew those flags in protest of Israeli occupation and oppression of Palestine. They demonstrated that borders don’t matter, and expressed a solidarity which spoke volumes.

The recent campaign for free period products in the stadium by the fan group ‘On The Baw’ – which I’m a member of – is another example of fighting towards inclusivity, helping make Celtic Park truly ‘open to all’. On The Baw saw room for improvement in terms of access to basic hygiene and the comfort of female fans. We mobilised, worked with the club, and established free period product provision commencing in the 2018/19 season.

Celtic’s public recognition and endorsement of Glasgow’s Pride weekend is another notable promotion of inclusivity and solidarity. Their posts on social media meant a lot to LGBTQI+ supporters and set a precedent for other football clubs.

This all sounds decent, eh? However, all these three actions – made by both supporters and the Club – elicited a fair amount of controversy in response to. It’s inevitable that there will be conflict in moral and political opinions, with different people of course allowed to disagree on such standpoints.

What do need to stop is using the excuse of ‘politics and football shouldn’t mix’ to pardon our intolerances. All the aforementioned examples, though met with great conflict, are examples of stands against injustice – just like the great stand against injustice made in 1888, which gave us our football club.

If we want to maintain our status as a ‘club open to all’, we have to fight to hold on to that title. Using Celtic as a vehicle to tackle injustice comes with risks. However, it’s a risk we must fully embrace in order to remain deserving of a title which indicates that we are actually as inclusive and forward-thinking as we believe we are.

There’s always going to be people that don’t agree, whether that is fellow supporters or governing bodies like UEFA, but it is par for the course. Change can only take place if we challenge existing circumstances. We can’t take the plaudits of being a ‘club open to all’ without also meeting the challenges of holding on to that title, head-on. You can’t be a Celtic fan whilst being feart of a tackle.

 

THIS ARTICLE IS FROM THE 8TH EDITION OF THE CYNICAL, OUR FREE ONLINE MAGAZINE.

DOWNLOAD THE CYNICAL HERE:

EPUB FORMAT  (great for iBooks and other e-readers)

PDF FORMAT


Erin is a student and has been an avid Celtic fan since she was a wee girl, and welcomes any chance to blether about the team. Similar to her life-long love of Celtic, Erin also loves writing. She has her own blog where she posts articles about politics, football and whatever else is going on. In addition to her own blog, Erin also written for the Scottish Socialist Voice, Ungagged and This Fan Girl. She has also been shortlisted for a Write to End Violence Against Women Award for ‘Best Blog.’ Erin has also run a successful campaign to make sanitary products free of charge at Celtic Park and believes that we should never shy away from the link between politics and football – for those who are oppressed, in song we can protest!


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