Poor officiating, selfies and protests: A welcome return to action for Celtic
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Poor officiating, selfies and protests: A welcome return to action for Celtic

INTERNATIONAL football is over and done with until next month, which meant we finally got to see Celtic back in action at the weekend.

The fans travelled in full voice to Fir Park where the Bhoys seemed destined to take top spot in the league after some pretty dire performances from Aberdeen of late.

With just 15 minutes on the clock Celtic went one up through a volley from Nadir Ciftci, who seemed thrilled to be back on the scoresheet. It was a game that really should have seen Celtic capitalise on their dominance, but the three points see Celtic two points clear of the Dons.

Although Celtic were very much in control of both halves, Motherwell did have a few chances to equalise despite showing very little attacking threat as a Kieran Kennedy shot on goal went wide.

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The biggest talking point, as with most games in Scotland, was the standard of refereeing. The beginning of the second-half saw Celtic appeal for a penalty after Scott Brown was tackled in the box, but referee Alan Muir believed defender Kennedy had made contact with the ball.

The next incident was so obviously a handball that those of us watching on TV in Dublin could see it without a replay, so how Muir and his assistants didn’t spot it right in front of them was absolutely unbelievable.

To be honest, over the years everyone in Scotland has just had to live with the poor standard of refereeing in this league, although when the incidents are as clear as this one all we can do is laugh and be thankful the decision in the end didn’t impact the result of the game, although in many cases over the last few seasons it has.

DEMONSTRATION

Celtic fans and Motherwell fans also had their own statement to make on the day in regard to policing in the country. The demonstration saw banners raised and rolls of police tape thrown onto the pitch. Celtic supporters had a banner which read "SNP – stop disrupting fans' lives."

The message from the fans is clear and in my opinion is warranted. The Green Brigade released an official statement on their website on Saturday explaining the reasoning behind the protest:

The Green Brigade today worked in unison with the ‘Heavy Hands, Empty Stands’ campaign of Motherwell supporters to highlight our shared concern regarding the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012. The SNP have reneged on their promise to fully review the OBAF Act whilst Police Scotland have actively sought to prevent dissent against it, however this is merely the beginning of a renewed campaign for the immediate repeal of this legislation.

Whilst we would rather that all fans could watch a match and support their team without disruption, a very slight delay to clear some tennis balls and police tape pales in significance with the disruption that has been caused to fans' lives without due justification. The fact that there has been a unified action from two clubs against this Act highlights that this is an issue which affects all football supporters. This is perhaps the first time that rival supporters have cooperated in this way over a political issue since Celtic and Dundee Utd supporters demonstrated their opposition to Margaret Thatcher and the Poll Tax during the Scottish Cup Final in 1988.

Whilst the SNP have been actively attempting to portray themselves as a defender of Human Rights, this legislation and the policing culture which has encompassed it is tangible proof that they do not believe that civil liberties should extend to football supporters.

This Act remains unreasonable and unworkable, illiberal and illogical. The embarrassingly low conviction rate is a damning reflection of the inherent flaws within this legislation yet even that does not tell the whole story. Even those fans who have been found not guilty have had their lives turned upside down with multiple court dates, their names sullied in the national press and sometimes their livelihoods lost.

Regrettably, we were able to predict the consequences of this legislation before it became law yet our key concerns remain the same. No legislation should create an offence which applies only to one stigmatised section of society, as the OBAF Act does with football supporters. It is both dangerous and ridiculous in equal measure to outlaw something as flagrantly subjective as offensiveness and fans should not lose their basic right to hold or express political opinion upon purchasing a match ticket.

This weekend the SNP are holding their annual party conference where the treatment of football fans is not a genuine concern but we would like to make it clear to them that we will not allow this issue to be dismissed. We will continue to campaign as a member group of Fans Against Criminalisation to fight this legislation until it is repealed.

The Green Brigade

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Video footage after the game on social media also showed what is believed to have been a young boy who, if rumours are to believed, was allegedly arrested after the game for - wait for it - taking a 'selfie' with Leigh Griffiths. If true, he now stands to face a year's banning order. Unbelievable, right? We have all seen the over reaction of the police at games in Scotland and the intimidation fans face while simply attending the football.

Such arrests are ridiculous. It's time football fans across the board all get behind these demonstrations because these unnecessary arrests are, in some cases, ruining lives.

EUROPA LEAGUE

There is certainly a case for another article on this topic in more depth, but for now we look forward to Thursday as Ronny Deila has no time off to rest as the Bhoys resume their Europa League campaign when they take on Molde, who impressively took three points from Fenerbahçe in their first game of the group.

The group, which has been a mixed bag of emotions so far, sees Celtic travel to Norway in high spirits, but if the previous two performances are anything to go by, Deila certainly has his work cut out for him.

Two goals up against Fenerbahçe put Celtic in dreamland, then in a matter of minutes the Bhoys were pegged back to 2-2, much like the game in Amsterdam where Celtic had to settle for a draw with Ajax late on.

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When the draw was made we all would have seen Molde as a side to take three points off home and away, but now I’m not so sure. We have blown two wins we basically had in the bag and now Molde sit top of Group A with four points, but here's hoping Celtic can get their first win in the group that will take them to the top of the table!