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Celtic fans ban explained: Who are the Green Brigade? Why are they banned? What will happen now?

A group of Celtic fans called the Green Brigade have been banned from home matches after what the club has described as “an increasingly serious escalation in unacceptable behaviours.”

What are the specific disagreements between Celtic and its most vocal supporters, who are the Green Brigade and what have they done to deserve a ban? Is there precedent for this in Glasgow and in UEFA competitions?

Here's everything you need to know on the Celtic fans ban at Celtic Park…

Who are the Green Brigade?

The Green Brigade are an ultras group of Celtic supporters known for impressive banner displays, tifos and incessant chanting. The group has its own section at Celtic Park, situated in the north curve.

As a supporters' group, the Green Brigade make their opinions clear on non-football issues, including their support of Palestine, the Black Lives Matter Movement and their opposition to the wearing of poppies around Remembrance Day.

Now, members of the Green Brigade have had their season tickets withdrawn by Celtic.

Why are Celtic fans banned?

Displaying Palestine flags

On 7 October, Celtic played Kilmarnock at Celtic Park, just hours after Hamas had attacked Israel. Banners in the Green Brigade section read ‘Free Palestine' and ‘Victory to the Resistance.' These banners were strongly condemned, including by a former-Celtic player. The Israeli midfielder Nir Bitton described the Brigade as “brainwashed” and claimed they have “zero clue about this conflict and you still act like you know everything.”

The Green Brigade then defied a request from their club to not display Palestine flags at the UEFA Champions League match against Atletico Madrid, which ended 2-2 in a thrilling fixture.

In response to the club's request, the Green Brigade said they have an “unshakeable belief that we, and other football supporters, have the right to express political views on the terraces, just as ordinary citizens do elsewhere in society.”

They then asked “all Celtic fans to raise the Palestine flag on the European stage and show the world that Celtic Football Club stands with the oppressed, not the oppressor.”

Some Palestine flags had been brought into Celtic Park before this fixture and, wary of disciplinary action from UEFA, Celtic asked the Green Brigade not to bring any flags associated with the Middle East conflict. Instead, an organised effort was made to support Palestine with a tifo in the Green Brigade section and flags dotted around the ground.

Celtic fans ban | The Green Brigade show support for Palestine
The Palestine flag tifo prepared before kick-off | Photo: Icon Sport

“Anti-fascist” banner

You might think any anti-fascist sentiment would be welcomed, but not in football where UEFA fined Celtic for the club's supporters' banner which apparently contained a “provocative message of an offensive nature” towards Lazio.

Celtic fans ban | The Green Brigade display anti-fascist banner
Photo by Icon Sport

Pyro at Feyenoord

Celtic were also fined for the fans' pyrotechnic show in the away end against Feyenoord at Rotterdam's De Kuip stadium.

In addition to these three ‘major' incidents, the club have cited “rushing turnstiles” at Fir Park, fans who “illegally gained access” at the Lazio match, “unauthorised banners” at several games and ‘behaviour towards stewards'.

Celtic statement on Green Brigade ban

“To avoid any misunderstanding, the progressive steps taken by the club over a period of time are as a result of an increasingly serious escalation in unacceptable behaviours and non-compliance with applicable regulations, at matches at Celtic Park and away grounds over a period of time, which are creating serious safety concerns and other issues.”

This is a complex issue, then.

Celtic have two major fan groups. The Green Brigade are found in one corner of the ground, with the The Bhoys in the opposite corner, diagonally. The Bhoys also showed their support for Palestine at the Atleti match, but have not been banned.

What do Celtic fans think of the Green Brigade ban?

The Scotsman's reporter Andrew Smith says “it is entirely understandable for Celtic supporters, and indeed any fair-minded persons with a shred of humanity, to despair that support for a people being subjected to genocidal warfare in the Gaza Strip should be considered so contentious.”

Smith also admits that it is fair to suggest there are “gross double standards” at Celtic and UEFA, but insists the Palestine incident was the latest in a long run from the Green Brigade. He points out that bans have been issued to the group in 2013, 2017 and 2019 as well and highlights “the boorish, loutish behaviour of the Green Brigade, at away matches in particular.”

Others disagree vehemently, including, of course, the Green Brigade themselves.

“It is undeniable that the sanctions imposed against those affiliated with the Green Brigade are a result of the group’s unapologetic solidarity with Palestine,” a statement read.

“The sanctions applied, most notably collective bans, are evidently unfair; bereft of policy, process and communication with individuals wrongfully being punished before receiving any allegation, any evidence nor any right of defence.”

There is considerable tension in the Celtic support now, with many supporting The Green Brigade and others believing they have taken things too far. One supporter offered this nuanced view:

“The GB choosing to display those banners on 7th October, the day of Hamas' attack and before any retaliatory action from the Israeli military, was ill-advised at best. It indicates that they approved of, or endorsed, what Hamas did – killing, torturing and abducting civilians, including children, peace activists, and Israelis who campaign for Palestinian rights.

“That does NOT justify Israel subsequently bombing innocent civilians in Gaza, but you can condemn the latter without endorsing the former. In fact, you can quite easily condemn Israel's aggression and the illegal occupation whilst at the same time condemning Hamas, a group whose charter is anything but left wing. The impression I was left with on 7 Oct was that the GB thought those attacks on innocent civilians were a good thing.”

Here's what other Celtic fans think. As you'll see, there's a broad range of views!

What will happen to the Green Brigade now?

Well, there were a significant number of empty seats at Celtic's midweek fixture against St. Mirren on Wednesday 1 November.

Now, we have to wait and see whether the Green Brigade and the club can reconcile their differences. It seems unlikely that will happen for some time.

Harry Robinson

A freelance writer and broadcaster, Harry has worked for or featured in/on Manchester United, FourFourTwo, The Independent, The Manchester Mill, UEFA, United We Stand and many others. He's the author of The Men Who Made Manchester United and hosts the Manchester United Weekly Podcast and United Through Time. A Stretford End season ticket holder, Harry travels around Europe to watch his team.

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