Celtic, Europa League, Media, Scottish Football

Whataboutery (For Future Reference)

Good Afternoon. 

Every now and then a media outlet treats us to a piece that is well worth keeping for future reference. 

And today the Record has given us a cracker!

Do UEFA turn a blind eye to fans of elite clubs who break the rules but hammer Rangers and Celtic?

First of all, you have to laugh at the shoehorning of a long-dead club into an article about European football. I am sure it appeases the liquidation-denying  minority in Scottish society, and the liquidation-ignoring majority in the Scottish media, but that doesn’t make it any less tragic.

Secondly, the spectacle of a Scottish newspaper playing the ‘whataboutery card’ after ALL the media sneering at fans for it over the years is simply breathtaking.

Here is a flavour of what the Record had to say:

“UEFA have slapped Manchester United and Liverpool with a range of charges following an ill-tempered Europa League last-16 second leg tie at Old Trafford.

But why have they decided to act after the second leg and not after the first leg, where there were equally disturbing chants heard?

And why do Rangers and Celtic fans seem to get punished a lot more often than supporters of clubs playing at a higher level? Do they simply commit more offences than others?”

“Of course, this isn’t the first we’ve heard such vile chants when the Mancunians meet the Scousers. It comes from both sides and there really is no excusing it.

UEFA have reacted accordingly to the second leg which in itself is the right thing to do. The charges include: throwing objects, illicit chanting, blocking stairways, crowd disturbances, late kick off and fans setting off fireworks.

So there’s plenty for the European governing body to get their teeth stuck into. But questions really need to be asked of UEFA’s consistency on the matter of misbehaviour of fans in their tournaments.

Why, for example, did they completely ignore United fans’ clear-as-day chants about the Hillsborough disaster and also about Heysel, in which they chant about the Reds fans being “murderers”, at Anfield in the first leg?”

“Celtic have repeatedly been fined by UEFA over the last few years for a mixture of “illicit chanting” in reference to the IRA, letting off smoke bombs and banners. Nobody at Parkhead can complain about being punished but they will surely be scratching their heads that UEFA seem to pick and choose when to punish offensive songs, particularly when the source is fans of so-called super clubs.

They were fined £12,700 for chants in a Europa League game against French side Rennes and just a few days later were hit with a punishment for the displaying of an offensive banner – ‘F**k UEFA’ – and setting off of fireworks.

 December 2013 also saw the Parkhead side fined £42,000 for displaying a banner depicting IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands alongside William Wallace in a Champions League meeting with AC Milan. The Hoops have been hit with punishment from UEFA eight times in the last five years.

The same head scratching will be happening at Rangers, who have been fined for sectarian singing more than once in the past but see UEFA ignoring United gleefully, in large numbers, glorifying Liverpool fans being crushed in Sheffield.
UEFA first went after the Ibrox side in 2006 for singing in a game against Villarreal in the Champions League, and the same occurred at Osasuna in the UEFA Cup the following year.

In April 2011, Rangers fans were banned from their next European away game after singing sectarian songs in their Europa League match against PSV Eindhoven, as well as a £35,625 fine.
Don’t forget, back in November UEFA genuinely contemplated punishing Manchester City after their fans booed the Champions League anthem. Match delegate Geir Thorsteinsson even passed the matter on to the disciplinary unit but it was eventually dropped.

What message are they sending out when they just about punish a set of supporters for booing an unimportant competition theme tune, yet ignore thousands taunt their rivals with disgusting jibes about tragedies?”

Before going any further, let me be absolutely clear that the Record makes a valid point about UEFA’s inconsistency, and is right to mock their threatened sanctions over the booing of the UEFA anthem (something about which I have previously written). It is also to be applauded that they have acknowledged misbehaviour by more than one set of Scottish fans in Europe over the years.

I am also inclined to welcome the fact that UEFA (in general) is less tolerant of crowd trouble in its tournaments than other governing bodies are. 

However, the spectacle of a Scottish sports media article complaining about unfairness, and suggesting that the authorities should treat everyone equally (you might call it ‘without fear or favour’) is an absolute joy to behold.

I look forward to such even-handed consideration of difficult issues, and a similar lambasting of the authorities in our domestic game over the coming weeks. 

What’s more,  now that the Record has found its voice regarding the unfair treatment of fans, perhaps it might like to go after the Scottish Government? After all, it is they who keep a piece of legislation on the statute book that victimises people and requires them to maintain a higher standard of behaviour than everyone else simply because they go to football matches.

It doesn’t come much more unfair than that.

I am away to pin that Record article on the wall for future reference.