Published on 21 April 2014
CELTIC prides itself on its ‘open to all’ motto. The pain caused by discrimination and racism is known all too well at the club. Celtic was born from the Irish community – Famine refugees – who fled to Scotland for survival.
That community faced hate and ridicule for decades in Scotland, a hate that continues to affect people’s lives to this day. That’s why the term ‘open to all’ really means something to Celtic fans. Those three words are powerful, and they go hand in hand with the ‘more than a club’ ethos. Celtic is not just about football. It’s not just about goals, points and trophies.
It’s no surprise then that the signing of Leigh Griffiths in January left a number of fans uncomfortable. The 23-year-old was investigated less than a year before signing on the dotted line at Celtic for sending a racist tweet. Griffiths later apologised for the incident. The words ‘go home’ are all too familiar to Celtic fans, and the idea of anyone subscribing to that attitude pulling on green and white hoops left a bad taste for many.
Just how involved Griffiths was in the most recent controversy over the “Rudi Skacel is a fucking refugee” chant is still under investigation and we must await the outcome. However, the story ignited a surprisingly fierce debate among some of the Celtic faithful on social media, and it was disappointing to see a pattern of excuses and deflection emerging in some quarters.
Screams – or very angry tweets at least – of a Leigh Griffiths witch hunt were heard alongside a sudden eruption in debate over what racism really is anyway. The hypocrisy that emerged from many was embarrassing. When the Famine Song is sung by fans at Ibrox they should have the book thrown at them, but when a Celtic player is filmed (allegedly) singing and dancing about a fucking refugee, it’s all been blown out of proportion.
Lets be clear: the xenophobia that created the Famine Song and the chant about Rudi Skacel’s immigration status comes from the same place, and it is entirely at odds with the ethos of Celtic.
However, those people missed the point entirely. This is not about Leigh Griffiths, this is about Celtic. This is about the core values of the club that so many people invest their trust in. Celtic’s ‘open to all’ policy only means something if that message is honoured without fear or favour, otherwise Celtic is simply in the business of PR and fans have been buying into a motto that only really matters when it doesn’t actually apply to Celtic.
Not too long ago, Celtic released this video championing Celtic’s reputation as a club opposed to racism. In 2012, Neil Lennon made it clear that there would be a zero tolerance policy on ‘any form of discrimination’ from players. The fans applauded these things, and more importantly, believed in their authenticity.
We’re now in a position where Celtic is being tested on the principles that helps sell tickets and merchandise. Neil Lennon appears to be standing by his player, which sadly renders his earlier comments – along with Celtic’s investigation into the refugee chant – rather hollow.
For the Celtic fans who are keen to keep a player who scores goals, comforting themselves with notions that signing for Celtic will bring Leigh Griffiths an education and an epiphany might be enough, but when they scream ‘open to all’ in the future, they must be prepared for the answer that will undoubtedly be thrown back at them if Griffiths was indeed involved in that chant.
Perhaps the most telling thing about the whole saga so far is that while Leigh Griffiths has been the focus of attention – even taking part in a wonderfully placed ‘I’ve learned my lesson’ PR fluff piece in the Scottish Sun this weekend – Rudi Skacel has been a mere afterthought. The man at the centre of the disgraceful chant has barely been considered in any of this.
I’m on his side, and the side of everyone targeted under such hateful circumstances.