The Green Brigade are a truly infamous bunch. Arguably deplorable, effortlessly enthusiastic, and certainly loud, they are well-known not just within Scotland but around the football world.
Have you ever wondered why Celtic Park has such an incredible atmosphere? Indeed, one that had Andrés Iniesta, a universally loved legend of the game, concluded that ‘They (Celtic fans) are the best I have ever heard’. The Green Brigade was, until recently, the heart of this bastion of passion.
Formed in 2006, the group is one of the best-known ultras groups in the UK and holds an impressive membership that hovers around 1000 full-time members. Famously, they have been littered with controversies and have frequently clashed with Parkhead’s leadership throughout their 17-year history. What is indisputable, however, is how key this particular faction of Celtic Park’s 60,000 crowd is to providing its atmosphere.
But, as Bob Dylan so beautifully sang, the times are a-changin. And how right he was, with Celtic now having banned the group from home and away fixtures, citing ‘serious issues’ with the inappropriate and unauthorised use of displays, consistently unsafe behaviour, and the dangerous use of pyrotechnics within the stadium. Ex-Celtic star Nir Bitton has also been stern in his criticism of the ultras, stating that they are “brainwashed” and have “no clue about conflict,” which followed their pro-Palestinian display during Celtic’s home fixture against Athletico Madrid (25/10/23). Indeed, Celtic’s fixture against Lazio on October 4th saw the spotlight once again shine on the Green Brigade, following their ‘Antifascist Glasgow Celtic’ banner, which was clearly aimed at the Lazio support. Now, while the story of Lazio’s history is certainly morally and politically questionable, UEFA didn’t look too kindly on the targeted nature of this display and handed Celtic a €20,000 fine.
As for the future, I’m not quite sure what’s yet to come in this story. The Celtic board will be under no illusions as to just how important the Green Brigade are within their fan base, yet they cannot be seen to be too lenient with them and potentially show them any form of special treatment.
It’s an issue that has partially divided Celtic’s supporters, as many feel that justice has finally been done. Considering the fines that have been inflicted on Celtic through the years because of their actions, many feel that the group does more harm than good and doesn’t seem to align with the idea of always wanting the best for Celtic.
Contrastingly, there seems to be a sense that the ultras have been unjustifiably persecuted simply for expressing their opinion, which is noteworthy as the move to ban the group from Celtic Park came after their pro-Palestinian display against Athletico Madrid. With Celtic being a club founded from Irish persecution in the east end of Glasgow with strong republican and socialist roots, it is arguably ironic of the board to go after a supporters group that seems to want to align with these historic, rudimentary values. The atmosphere will unquestionably suffer, attendance may drop, and Brendan Rogers’ team could easily be affected without the stonewall backing that these ultras provide behind them.
Whatever happens in a standoff between the board and the Green Brigade, I know who I’m backing.