Get your wits out for the ghirls

Published on 1 August 2013


Celtic Football Club. Open to all. Against all forms of discrimination and renowned for its respect towards people from all races, religions and gender.

Except if you’re a blonde physiotherapist. Then you need your hole, love. Get your tits out.

This was the ‘banter’ dished out to our visitors from Elfsborg on Wednesday night. It seems a juvenile minority of fans just can’t stop themselves screaming sexually explicit statements at women in a football stadium.

It’s a relief to see one of Elfsborg’s doctors tweeted that she enjoyed her experience at Celtic Park – it’s an incredible stadium with incredible fans, and it would have been a great shame if that brief embarrassing display had spoiled it in any way.

Beside me in the Lisbon Lions stand, faces fell among those who didn’t take part in the screams of “YOU NEED YER HOLE” at the sports professionals going about their work. In front of me was a boy of around eight and at the end of my row a girl who couldn’t have been more than six.

It was cringeworthy and extremely uncomfortable to be sitting among men who couldn’t control themselves. You’d have been forgiven for thinking they’d never seen a woman before.

Before the Elfsborg physios took to the pitch, another woman from the Elfsborg staff warmed up not far from my seat along with two of the squad’s players. She was subjected to the same nature of comments from the guys around me. She kept her head turned towards the pitch and never once looked in our fans’ direction as she was goaded.

It was mortifying.

When I came home I switched my computer on and saw a tweet from a Celtic Underground writer who had witnessed the same behaviour. He was appalled by it too. It prompted me to put out a tweet of my own reporting what I had heard.

The response was one of incredible fury that I had dared suggest women may deserve a little more respect – but it wasn’t the first time a tweet about women at Celtic Park had elicited such a response.

In February, after a piece written by the Maley’s Bhoys blog, I responded in a discussion about a stark lack of women anywhere near the Celtic hierarchy. It was a flyaway comment and came from genuine curiosity.

I was met with a hysterical response from Twitter followers. How dare I even raise the question about a woman’s place at Celtic? Obviously, after all these years, there just hadn’t been any women good enough to grace the boardroom.

I guarantee not one of those critics would have accepted that a lack of Catholics at Ibrox in past times was simply because none were good enough.

Nor would they accept racist or sectarian abuse of any player, opposition player, member of staff, fan or visitor to Celtic Park.

So why are women fair game among those who pride themselves on their progressive Celtic values?

In a once male-dominated sport, such treatment of women would once have been commonplace, although the likelihood of finding a woman in a football stadium decades ago would have been minimal to begin with.

Nowadays, women make a substantial part of the Celtic support – as do children – and are an integral part of the Celtic Family.

The majority of fans treat women with the basic respect every human being deserves. They don’t demand they unbutton their cleavage and discuss their sexual habits.

Racism and sectarianism have no place at football grounds – Celtic fans have been very vocal on this subject, particularly about such discrimination at Ibrox –and neither does verbal, sexist abuse aimed at anyone because of their gender.

I’ve had hundreds of tweets in the last 24 hours absolutely incensed that I asked the men at Celtic Park to behave like real Bhoys and behave themselves.

I’m exaggerating, I need to get back in the kitchen, and other predictable and unoriginal stereotypes, have flown in my direction.

But encouragingly, I’ve had a lot of messages and emails from those who agree that discrimination is wrong in all forms at Celtic Park. One man said the ground could have opened up and swallowed him when a rendition of “get your tits out” started in his section. He was attending the game with his granddaughter.

For those who are stamping their feet because people like me want to “take the fun out” of football, I’d suggest therapy for you if indulging in occasional sexual harassment is necessary for you to enjoy yourself.

Celtic Park is a women-friendly place, but a few men in Paradise need to learn manners.

34 thoughts on “Get your wits out for the ghirls

  1. Brian Mulreany August 1, 2013 at 7:05 pm Reply

    More power to you. It was embarrassing, I was at the game with my 22 year old daughter and a German tourist who is a huge Celtic fan. This was indeed a throwback to the 1970s.

  2. George Collins August 1, 2013 at 7:34 pm Reply

    Young lady, I am 100% with you. That was the most I’ve “enjoyed” an article from anyone in a while. Everything in that piece was spot-on.

  3. Paul August 1, 2013 at 7:42 pm Reply

    Was there last night in the jock stein stand and heard the whistles and must admit I had a chuckle , didn’t realise the abuse given at other end . Must admit I’ve been at games with kids and cringed at some of the comments around me , some orange this and that or just plain foul language from adults when they can see there are kids no older than eight sitting next to them!

  4. unseenhand1888 August 1, 2013 at 8:06 pm Reply

    Angela, I’ve seen some of the stick you’ve been getting on Twitter today.You should know that there are large elements of the Celtic support who applaud your stance. You’re absolutely right to highlight it, and I hope you don’t let the snide comments silence you on the matter(though I highly doubt you would).

    My initial thoughts when the 2 physios came on were of outright embarrassment. It was as though large sections of our support had never seen a woman before. God knows what our visitors from modern, progressive, liberal Sweden must have thought of us. It just made us look like backward neanderthals. In fact it reminded me of the (in)famous scene in Blazing Saddles: swap “the sheriff’s a n****r!” with “the burd’s a physio!”.

    Part of the problem here is that some Celtic fans, though perhaps not consciously prejudiced, just can’t get their heads around the notion of Celtic fans acting in a discriminatory manner. This is perhaps due to the fact that Celtic fans have been the victims of other types of prejudice in this country for a long time, & with a lot of justification, we see ourselves as somewhat unique in that we have a very tangible, anti-prejudice culture. We’re not perfect though, & inevitably our large support will contain elements that are symptomatic of wider societal problems-like sexism & misogyny.

    Sexism & misogyny demean us all, because anyone capable of empathy only has to think of how they’d feel if it was their daughter, girlfriend, mum, sister etc etc. Making sexism as ridiculous, taboo & absurd as racism is one of the great fights of the 21st century in my opinion, & I hope Celtic fans play their part in this. Hail Hail.

  5. Kevin August 1, 2013 at 8:48 pm Reply

    A classic case of todays political climate where people go out of their way to be offended. The female physio has clearly stated she was not offended yet Angela on the woman`s behalf defines it as sexual harassment . You are simply wrong on this and by defining it as sexual harassment you criminalise fans which in the current climate is a dangerous raod to go down.

    • Angela Haggerty August 1, 2013 at 8:54 pm Reply

      Sadly, another who fails to condemn the indefensible.

  6. Mark August 1, 2013 at 9:54 pm Reply

    Got bored reading this half way though, so I can’t comment on all of it. However I agree with Kevin to a large extent. I could see the point in the story if the two ladies had been offended, however they were not and in fact as they were swedish I would doubt that they would understand what was being said.

    • Jimbocelt August 1, 2013 at 11:41 pm Reply

      So if you call a West Indian a ” black bar steward” and they dont understand or hear what your saying, then your not being racist. So you have to be heard or understood to be making a racist remark. You should live where I do and walk into a workplace canteen and see the nods and hear the whispers as ” one off them, ‘us’ has just entered the room”. But they’re not being sectarian, sure I can’t hear them.

  7. JR August 1, 2013 at 10:22 pm Reply

    Fairly new phenomenon but there seems to be an element of the present Celtic support who wont condemn very un Celtic like actions no matter what. We like to pride ourselves on being somehow different but if a passable impersonation of a Sun reader is your bag then maybe we’ve got a bit of evolving to do yet.

  8. Jimbo August 1, 2013 at 10:47 pm Reply

    After our great victory over Barcalona my wife and I were heading home to Belfast the following day. Four Celtic supporters got on our bus at Ayr ( have since learned they were from Coalisland, Co. Tyrone ) and racially abused an Asian family who were sitting in front of us. I confronted them at Cairnryan and between there and Belfast port there were a few incidents between “us and them”. However one gem one of our enlightened Celtic supporters came off with to my wife was ” what de fcuk was a woman doing at a football match in the first place”
    1. I would bet a pound to a penny that the same guy goes to Tyrone GAA matches and would be hung from the goalposts if he came off with the same bile.

    2. Don’t believe for one minute we don’t have supporters who are more akin to the mob at “Follow, Follow,” than what becomes a Celtic supporter, although thankfully in much smaller numbers.

    3. The only way to confront those who think they are bigger than our club, (and they do,) is to confront them.

    Fair play to you.

  9. Gerard August 1, 2013 at 10:53 pm Reply

    Would Kevin and Mark equally argue that racist abuse is unacceptable if the victims were not offended by it?
    It is utterly indefensible for people to shout sexual insults and the like when two women go on to the park to do their job. You, Kevin are simply wrong. Utterly and demonstrably.

    Harassment in the workplace can be a lot less than some of the crap that was shouted at those women at Celtic Park. Just because it’s a football stadium doesn’t mean it’s okay. No-one is ‘criminalising’ fans here. The problem is those individuals who thought this sort of abusive behaviour is acceptable – not those who have taken a stand against that behaviour.

  10. Gerard August 1, 2013 at 10:54 pm Reply

    Sorry – I meant to ask if Kevin and Mark would argue that racist abuse is acceptable if the victims weren’t offended by it – but I expect you got the gist…

  11. gammon goalposts (@gammongoalposts) August 1, 2013 at 11:17 pm Reply

    I’ve got a 3d tv, when those two blondes came on the pitch I started rolling about the living room floor hoping they’d apply the magic sponge.

  12. Colin paterson August 1, 2013 at 11:51 pm Reply

    It’s hard to argue with much in your blog, and without sounding like a Sevconian endulging in a bit of whataboutery I’m curious to know where the condemnation is for the girls and women who attend Celtic Park who start acting as if they are in heat when one of our players gets his top off – on the subs bench or at half time – revealing a chiselled physique.
    This is an altogether more regular occurrence and the language just as industrial.
    When I hear it it doesn’t bother me, maybe it should…

  13. ricky August 2, 2013 at 7:23 am Reply

    angela just a wee comment ,when you stated that another member of the Swedish staff warmed up with two players, not being funny but think that was actually three players with the no 7 actually coming on as sub later on in the match but with a wee ponytail maybe giving the impression of being a female.{apols to all the guys out there with ponytails}.I stand to be corrected if this is not who you meant but from main stand am sure plenty around me had a couple of looks to confirm ..As for the rest of the story ,I would prob agree that it was a bit dated and cringeworthy ,although have to say didn’t like the constant abuse of Bangura from the start even though by the end of his antics I was maybe tempted to join in,

  14. john fegan. August 2, 2013 at 7:52 am Reply

    I too agree with much of what you say.
    My wife and I were in the old South Stand and did not hear the comments, The wolf whistles brought a laugh from the fans around me including the women and foreign supporters, and the girls were applauded as they returned. We got a smile and a wee wave.
    I , like any decent person abhor the tasteless behaviour you describe and would have spoke up if it happened near me.
    A young couple sitting next to my wife who were under the influence started getting getting too amorous with his hands going all over the girl. There were very young kids directly behind them and my wife very quietly told the couple to get lost. They did.
    There is , as stated elsewhere the other side to the coin. I too have heard close to the bone comments from some of our female supporters aimed at the players. This is accepted for some reason and no offence seems to be taken as there is no outcry. I do not condone this either.
    As for the boardroom situation , has any woman shown any interest in joining the board? has the board deliberately blocked the inclusion of women if they have applied to get on ? If any of these have happened then enlighten me please , if not , why bring it up. For the record I personally would not object to anyone joining the board if they can bring something to it regardless of gender ,creed or nationality.

  15. Peter Padden August 2, 2013 at 9:11 am Reply

    Well said Ms Haggerty. I read some of the nonsense you had to put up with on Twitter. Embarrassing doesn’t cover it. All forms of prejudice should be called out and challenged.

    Hope you have a great weekend.

  16. Andrew August 2, 2013 at 11:38 am Reply

    Oh yes, the old “has anyone blocked a woman joining the board” line. Celtic, if it wants to be looked on as a forward looking club, should be actively encouraging a board of mixed gender. Exclusively male minds being exercised on an issue runs the risk of not getting the whole picture.

  17. Rokewood (@Rokewood) August 2, 2013 at 12:09 pm Reply

    Sexist, racist language is reproachable regardless of the response of those at whom it is directed. It is wrong not because of what it reveals about its object (invariably nothing), but what it reveals about its user. In other words, it’s not only the language that is immoral, but the thought. Catholics used to call this conscience.

  18. Scott August 2, 2013 at 5:56 pm Reply

    What an imbecile you are Mark, an attention span allegedly not long enough to read the whole article for context, but able to read the comments and pass judgement. I’m embarrassed for you and the fact we share a common interest – despite you displaying behaviour I tend to associate more with the knuckle-dragging Union flag waving cretins from across the Clyde.

  19. dave August 2, 2013 at 6:51 pm Reply

    I attend the game with my wife and 12year old daughter. The wolf whistles etc were funny and designed to do no more than the booing of bangura. However, if the whistles were accompanied by the type of foul language you describe then you are right it is taking things too far. We have to be careful not to steralise society for the sake of not upsetting somebody, otherwise you end up with the recent football related legislation.
    As a father of 4 girls I tell them that they can achieve and do anything they set their mind tohowever they have to accept that the others are not as understanding and lack the intelligence to see what we can see. Good luck with the campaign.

  20. JP August 2, 2013 at 7:05 pm Reply

    I sat in the same stand, Lisbon Lions and sadly I also felt equally as embarrassed as Angela.

    I had a similar experience…sat with my girlfriend and with several female Celtic supporters nearby and I could sense their discomfort and disapproval at a very vocal, though not insignificantly sized, minority who proceeded to make vile chants towards two, admittedly, rather pretty Swedish ladies who work for the our visitors, IF Elsborg.

    It’s high time football fans realised that our behaviour inside the ground is subject to the same standards of acceptability as it is in the street each day of life…would a group of unruly men be excused of this standard of behaviour if a pretty blonde girl walked past them in the street, I don’t think so, there it may very well be a criminal act.

    Seriously, it’s time for football to drag itself out of the dark ages.

  21. john fegan. August 2, 2013 at 10:48 pm Reply

    While I agree that women on the board would enhance it I do not believe in “positive discrimination.” You can’t just co opt people to a board to rectify a gender imbalance.

    Anyone who joins the Celtic board , or any organisation for that matter, must bring the right credentials to the table whether they are male or female. It would be an insult for any woman to be included as the token female.
    As a father of three girls I can say I look forward to the first woman entering our board room as an equal contributor to the running of our club, the sooner the better.

    I asked the questions if the board were “blocking the inclusion of women” and if ” women had shown any interest in joining the board” because I am genuinely interested in finding out. It was an enquiry , not a line. If the board are discriminating then they should be hauled up , but if there has been no interest shown then that is that…. for the time being.

    • Angela Haggerty August 2, 2013 at 11:00 pm Reply

      Neither I nor Maley’s Bhoys suggested Celtic had blocked women in the boardroom, we simply commented on what is a curious lack given the number of skilled and capable women in the UK. Often it’s the response of others to a straight question that is very telling. When people are immediately threatened by a question and completely overreact, you’ve hit a nerve.

      That’s what happened when I made a relatively passive comment about women in positions of power at Celtic and it happened again when I brought the subject of my blog up on Wednesday night after the game. My interest now is to get to the bottom of that.

  22. Dawn August 2, 2013 at 10:56 pm Reply

    Angela, I enjoyed your article. Well put.
    From a proud Scottish-Canadian Ghirl.

  23. john fegan. August 2, 2013 at 11:57 pm Reply

    That’s exactly what I did Angela , I asked questions. I did not say that you suggested Celtic blocked women from the board. I simply asked if this was happening. I certainly did not feel threatened by any comment you made , in fact I agreed with what you said and my point about women on the board was as you said yours was , made out of genuine curiosity.

  24. last year's girl August 3, 2013 at 8:39 am Reply

    Thanks for posting this, Angela.

    The last Celtic match I attended was the Wolves friendly a couple of years back, because it’s not often my now-Glasgow resident husband gets to see his team up here (and playing his wife’s team! The day after his birthday!). After getting branded a “Wolves cunt” by some of my own because I was wearing my Wolves top, I haven’t been back (which doesn’t mean I don’t love my team any less).

  25. trevor downer August 3, 2013 at 3:56 pm Reply

    That seems to me to be a very fair post, telling it as it is.

  26. Jenny Wartnaby (@armsofrain) August 4, 2013 at 9:22 am Reply

    Thanks for highlighting this as an issue!

  27. jimlarkin January 6, 2014 at 6:42 am Reply

    I saw a lint to your site on TSFM.
    You are quite right to raise this issue, in the hope the neanderthals
    (who call themselves Celtic supporters) can understand what fairness, equality and respect mean.
    What a way to “welcome” people to Celtic park – sexually abuse them.
    That should encourage them to return in the future and also praise the Celtic fans for their warm welcome! (For the neanderthals – that last sentence was sarcasm).

    Well said angela.

  28. carlislecelt January 6, 2014 at 8:00 pm Reply

    I have never been back to any game since the LNS debacle but have to say whole-heartedly agree with the sentiments of the writer. Pretty shocked actually that women are treated like this at any football match. Get a grip!

  29. stewart January 6, 2014 at 10:58 pm Reply

    LOL it appears lots of celtic supporters are either sexist scum or right on outraged of milngavie..i must be one of the few in the middle lol
    ps you have done alex thomson up like a kipper…
    pps nothing offensive in my post..will it get shown????

  30. Michael January 7, 2014 at 1:48 am Reply

    How many women are major shareholders of Celtic?

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