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Controversies - The Poppy Appeal
|Incidents, Events & Controversies | About Celtic|
Celtic & The PoppyThe Poppy has become a symbol in the UK for remembrance of those who fought and died in the World Wars of 1914-18 & 1939-45, both of which saw many men linked with Celtic either seriously injured or even died from their efforts in these conflicts.
However, increasingly the Poppy Appeal has been used to gather sympathy for other forces personnel, and this is where the difficulty has arisen for Celtic. The controversial wars in the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan gather divided opinion in Britain (let alone amongst the generally left-leaning Celtic support), but more difficult is that respect is also demanded for those who served in N Ireland. Add all this up and it generates strongly opinionated debate within various communities (of which the arguments are left for a more suitable forum than this website).
Celtic stated in 2010 that that would be the last year the poppy would be on the jersey as there were parties outwith of Celtic using it to take shots unfairly at the club. It's an emotive issue for many for personal reasons and it's a no-win situation for many groups. Sadly and disturbingly it's been hijacked by various jingoistic groups (e.g. Huns supporters & the fascist BNP) & hard right-wing media (e.g. the obnoxious and racist Daily Mail & The Sun) for their own ends, a criticism that is made by not only Celtic supporters but by many others in the UK (including many current and former military servicemen).
A provocative banner by the Green Brigade during a match against Aberdeen at home (Nov 2010) lit a fuse and reignited the whole debate. It became national news, and the club came out to apologise to those offended and said there would be action taken against those responsible (see match) if only to dampen emotions down. The whole furore was a minefield.
Regardless of your opinion, it's not a clear cut "black & white" situation over support for the Poppy or not, as it's become more about the mass support for Poppy ceremonies for events unconnected to the World Wars. It's really now become too clearly a case of using the Poppy to create support for the military in current & recent conflicts, and an excuse for crude British jingoists to jump on a soapbox to try to beat others down from.
Most importantly, RIP and our respect to all those who have needlessly died due to the events of war & military conflict.
- Banner controversy (2010)
Quotes"I applaud Our Brave Boys. But this blatant and aggressive "hijacking" of the poppy is one of the most offensive Old Firm charades in years."
Graham Spiers attacks Rangers extravagant poppy display and Green Brigades anti-poppy banner (15 Nov 2010)
The Committee of the Association of Irish Celtic Supporters’ Clubs (2010)http://www.aicsc.com/
Last month, the Association of Irish Celtic Supporters’ Clubs (AICSC) issued a statement in which we noted our dismay at Celtic’s decision to display the poppy emblem on the club’s jerseys.
We outlined the divisive nature of the poppy in Ireland – the country of Celtic’s heritage and from where a significant proportion of its support comes - and its negative connotations of support for the British army, whose operations in Ireland (and in other parts of the world) have caused division, loss and rancour on a large scale.
We made it clear that we respect the memories of those who lost their lives in war – not least those former Celtic players and supporters and their family members. Clearly, anyone who chooses has a right to wear any such symbol.
However, Celtic were wrong to choose once again to use the club jersey – which we all respect and identify with no matter our personal views - as a medium for such a divisive symbol and one which does not recognise the memory of victims of the British military. Indeed, the club’s actions are all the more regrettable after engagements with supporters - either through official bodies such as the AICSC and “Meet the Supporters” events through the year – would have left its officials in no doubt as to the significant level of concern felt by supporters.
A recent display of banners at Celtic Park spoke for many of us and not, as some would have it, a minority. We believe this was an overdue and welcome message to the club and reflects a large degree of concern at the failure to listen to the views of supporters.
In addition, we deplore any threat to ban those who participated in this display from Celtic Park and call on it to be retracted immediately. We believe that those behind the display have added greatly to the atmosphere at the stadium in recent times and such an attempt to stifle their freedom of expression should be condemned.
We are frequently told that politics has no place in football or within Celtic F.C.. Yet, this claim rings hollow against the background of the club agreeing – with full knowledge of the concerns of dedicated and honourable supporters – to use the jersey to identify it with the contentious poppy symbol. We would call on the club to engage once more and on a meaningful basis with its supporters and their representatives on this and other issues.
Finally, we are mindful that none of this should be allowed to distract from the ongoing controversy surrounding Dougie McDonald’s decision at Tannadice. Having confessed to misleading the SFA, the Celtic manager and the football public in general with a lie, we have no confidence in Mr McDonald.
He must resign or be removed and the SFA must immediately put in place a credible system that establishes proper refereeing standards and makes referees accountable to persons other than former referees. We have no confidence in the current system or in Hugh Dallas, who has presided over the current mess and in respect of whom recent allegations regarding supposed e-mail activities only serve to pose further questions as to his suitability.
Signed: The Committee of the Association of Irish Celtic Supporters’ Clubs
9 November 2010
The Morning Star. Very refreshing read.10 Nov 2010
Celtic apologised today for an anti-poppy banner displayed during the 9-0 win over Aberdeen at Parkhead on Saturday.
Fans unfurled a banner during half-time which read: "Your deeds would shame all the devils in Hell. Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan. No bloodstained poppy on our Hoops."
The fans were among a section called the Green Brigade, who say they are "anti-racist, anti-sectarian, anti-fascist and left-wing."
Celtic responded by issuing a statement which said: "The actions of this small minority have no place at Celtic Park.
"We are currently investigating the matter and, clearly, we apologise for any offence caused."
The British Legion's Poppy Appeal faces growing accusations that it glorifies rather than commemorates war.
The campaign has close ties to corrupt arms dealers BAE Systems, who were allowed to use the poppy on their ads in exchange for sponsoring the appeal in 2002 - amid the Afghan war and the build-up to the Iraq invasion.
A group of veterans of British campaigns in Northern Ireland, Macedonia, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Falklands and Dhofar wrote to the Guardian last week to accuse the appeal of "subverting Armistice Day" by turning it into "a month-long drum roll of support for current wars."
Poppy problem has Celtic in turmoil
Nov 2010 The Times
This is the annual week of Remembrance, which means trouble for Celtic FC. Down in Glasgow’s east end they already have the dogs and the torches out, tracking down those miscreants who held up their anti-Poppy banner. Banishment, we are told, awaits the dissenters.
It is the same every year with Celtic. The club’s following is distinctly heterogeneous — predominantly Catholic, but with a large Protestant constituency, plus burgeoning numbers of Asian and ethnic minorities — and this is primarily a source of pride at Celtic Park. But where you find such variety, the danger is you get every shade of opinion, and, in the case of last Saturday, a protest against the appearance of the Poppy on the club’s shirt.
Every club in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League, to the best of my knowledge, wears the Poppy during Remembrance week. It is a recent fad, and one welcomed by most, but at Celtic it is a thorny scenario.
Celtic’s main political “baggage” is rooted in the club’s Irish-Catholic tradition, and this particular wing, rightly or wrongly, is the trigger for the annual anti-Poppy protest. “Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan: no bloodstained Poppy on our Hoops” a banner proclaimed at Celtic Park last weekend. This coming Sunday, officially Remembrance Sunday, there might be more of the same when Celtic play St Mirren in Paisley.
Are Celtic morally right to assert that they will track down the protesters and ban them from their stadium? The Poppy debate is one that is going on all across British society right now, with various private and public figures arguing why they do or do not wear the symbolic flower. To the best of my knowledge no one has yet declared that being against the Poppy is a case for a swingeing punishment.
It is a confusing debate for Celtic, and Peter Lawwell, the club’s chief executive, and John Reid, the chairman, must know it. This is a club that is excessively proud of its Irish roots, and these roots, as history attests, are steeped in struggle. Can Celtic openly encourage their Irish heritage while at the same time outlawing some of the attitudes that flow from it? If so, it makes for a weird type of tradition.
There is a corps of Celtic supporters — a small minority, most would say — who are against the Poppy, some for valid reasons, others for mere posturing effect. The latter group — those who posture — are always easily spotted, be they Rangers supporters or Celtic supporters, haplessly and ignorantly espousing a cause. They are usually still teenagers and tend to over-excitement. But those others who feel real, deep-rooted convictions over certain political principles shouldn’t necessarily be disdained. The fact is that Celtic, unlike Rangers, are never going to openly welcome the British Army to Celtic Park, for obvious reasons. Too many of the club’s supporters, if not openly vehement about it, would feel unease, as probably would both Lawwell and Reid in this context.
The history of Celtic, with their links to Ireland’s struggle, makes this a brute fact. No one today needs to tip-toe around this subject, or decree it to be a taboo, as it was 30 years ago. We’ve moved on from that.
In football the question is not one of protest, so much as of tone and decency. If people want to protest — without being racist or bigoted or excessively sectarian — then is it really a problem? These days at Ibrox and Celtic Park there are far greater vocal crimes being committed than being against the Poppy, yet these attract not half the amount of condemnation and hot air that we have heard in recent days. It has been quite strange.
Like it or not, politics plays a part in the lives of many football clubs. Try taking it away from Barcelona, or Real Madrid, or Benfica, or Napoli, or Austria Vienna, let alone the Old Firm, and see where you get. The same rule of decency applies: “dirty” politics or sheer prejudice on the part of supporters is to be deplored. But certain values, and their protesters, do not deserve to be lynched.
Jon Snow, the Channel 4 news anchor, is right. The phrase is not one that sits comfortably, but there is a certain “Poppy-fascism” at work. For some reason, in recent years, some who wear the Poppy have not just been happy and content to do so, but also turn hot-blooded and faintly venomous towards those who choose not to.
The irony of it is inescapable. People fought and died, among other things, to avert the tyranny of ideas. And yet, here we have groups of Poppy-wearing diehards who will not tolerate any other opinion.
Amid the Celtic and Rangers saga this debate is becoming quite transparent for what it is. While Celtic are uneasy about Remembrance, due to some of their followers’ views about the British Army, Rangers can sometimes hardly await their next opportunity to have military personnel parading on the pitch at Ibrox in full regalia, to the throaty adulation of the stands.
It doesn’t take much calculation to know what is going on here. This is old-style tribalism at work. This is cultural ***-for-tat being played out on the pantomime stage stretching from Celtic Park to Ibrox.
Celtic are in a mess over their hunt for their Poppy dissenters. The club’s stance is essentially at odds with every other egalitarian value which is allegedly held dear at Celtic Park. It makes for an odd hotchpotch of values.
* Footnote: I write this while wearing my Poppy, and proudly.
(from When Saturday Comes Jan 2012)
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