A Guest Post by J.M.
The brand new Celtic Way: an image of a modern Celtic and the Commonwealth Games. Glasgow City Council and Celtic PLC chipping in together to develop and renew, designing to impress an international and exterior gaze.
Meanwhile there is no such thing as the Living Wage inside Celtic Park. The Green Brigade was the target of disproportionate policing while the club collaborated with Police Scotland. Ultimately the group was made unwelcome at Celtic Park when their season tickets were relocated or refunded. Griffiths, filmed leading a pub full of Hibs fans in a song that used ‘fucking refugee’ as a derogatory term, has went unpunished and has played every game since bar tonight’s. The club has yet to comment on the incident pending ‘investigation’. Celtic dropped their support of the Green Brigade’s charity food drive in December 2013 following the broken seats incident at Motherwell – tickets for that section, we rarely hear, were available to any Celtic supporters not in the group who wanted to sit with the group at that particular game. The club and manager publically condemned a display which juxtaposed the democratically elected MP Bobby Sands alongside William Wallace in criticism of the SNP’s hypocritical stance on nationalism and independence. Peter Lawwell has spoken out saying that Celtic is not and should not be a political football club. However, Celtic is still marketed as a ‘club like no other’ and the charitable history evoked by the PLC. There’s some common ground between this particular marketing of ‘the club like no other’ and the SNP’s marketing of a Scottish ‘we’ in their independence campaign: both would benefit from public definition. What is this Scottish ‘we’ if football fans are targeted in a way that rugby fans are not? What is a Scottish ‘we’ if sectarianism is treated as a two-way street of football-related discrimination when in reality the problem is anti-Irish racism or hibernophobia? What are we being encouraged to remember about Celtic’s charitable roots if the PLC refuses to pay the Living Wage, and refuses to sponsor a grassroots fan-led Christmas food drive because of media pressure? What does ‘a club open to all’ mean when every effort is made to remove political undesirables – and politics in general – from the terraces at Celtic Park?
This weekend the internet was buzzing with outrage at the stickering of the railing at the foot of the newly opened Celtic Way only a few hours after it’s official opening.
I think it is important to understand the Celtic Way within the context of the redevelopment initiatives that have characterized the advent of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. In an interview with Failed Architecture, Chris Leslie made the point that ‘the East End was the ideal location for the Games because it had been left to decline for 30 years, resulting in large scale very cheap abundant land’. [source] The Commonwealth Games provoked development of areas that had long been in need of attention and on the surface is a positive thing: redevelopment, rehabilitation and rebirth. However the theme of this period of urban renewal has been the act of appealing to an exterior gaze, which is endemic to the central position the Commonwealth Games have in the whole process. This long overdue regeneration of the East End is primarily for the benefit of people exterior to the areas being regenerated. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the plan (now abandoned, thank God) to show the demolition of the Red Road Council Flats on the screens at Celtic Park during the upwards-of-£40-a-ticket opening ceremony while those evacuated from the area surrounding the flats were invited to watch the demolition on big screens in Glasgow Green. It is worth remembering too that one of the Red Road flats remains occupied. The remaining flat, is owned by GHA but leased to Serco/Orchard and Shipman for housing asylum seekers and would have remained standing while the others were levelled. The plan, and continuing occupation of the flat, raises some dangerous questions for the council about who the redevelopment is really for. Isn’t sub-standard for (white) Scots also sub-standard for asylum seekers? It seems the right to a decent standard of housing, like the right to work, is something that you only qualify for once you’re granted asylum.
A lot of the rhetoric of progress depends upon the image of the happily relocated (Scottish) resident, an image that was destabilized by the case of Margaret Jaconelli. Jaconelli had purchased her home and after fighting against eviction for eight years, during which all her neighbours moved away, Jaconelli was issued a compulsory purchase order and forcibly evicted. Her home was demolished to make way for what is now the Commonwealth Athlete’s Village. Relocation from sub-standard social housing to improved social housing is something that GCC would proudly showcase as an example of the Commonwealth games working for the people of Glasgow. What Jaconelli’s case in particular highlighted was the extent to which GCC were focused on the Commonwealth Games as opposed to the people living in communities that were being upheaved. Urban renewal always features relocation and redevelopment, but the Jaconelli episode exposed GCC as not having an answer to the questions of community disruption and destruction that come hand in hand with (forced) relocations. It highlighted the true nature of these relocations, characterized by a callousness and lack of concern about those people interior to the areas being redeveloped. Some like to paint Jaconelli as stubborn and backwards, but they fail to recognize the practical necessity of her reluctance to accept market value for her home (about £30,000) and light out for the territories to start anew. Two months ago, a public meeting to discuss the housing crisis in the East End was blocked by GCC/BCLC. The institutional decision that there is no crisis alleviates the need for local public discussion or debate, bans it even. A Thousand Flowers convincingly details the extent to which the Commonwealth Games Redevelopment is concerned with gentrifying of the East End and driving up property prices. That is, as opposed to redeveloping and improving the area for the people who live there.
The Celtic Way is a product of the Commonwealth Games too, with GCC funding precipitated by Parkhead’s usage as a Commonwealth stadium. Peter Lawwell said on Sunday, ‘We are delighted to announce the completion of The Celtic Way, something which we feel has transformed Celtic Park and provided a stunning new public realm area for the benefit of our supporters.’ [source] Reminiscent of the plans to showcase the demolition of the Red Road Flats in Celtic Park, the Celtic team and supporters will soon be displaced to Murrayfield for the Champions League Qualifiers. When we are sitting on the trains to Edinburgh and the polis are rinsing our drink, perhaps discussion of the extent to which the Celtic Way is ‘ours’ will come up. Outrage at ‘our’ property being covered in Celtic stickers doesn’t seem to have a counterpart in outrage at the alcohol and gambling advertisements plastered across ‘our’ stadium. The focus is on a vandalized railing sitting in the shadow of the Emirates velodrome. The velodrome: where the Commonwealth 2014 volunteer orientation sessions were held. A fitting venue given that the Emirates Group isn’t known for its progressive and fair treatment of workers. While not quite on the same level as the unpaid jobseeker stewards at the queen’s diamond jubilee in London left to sleep under a bridge, it’s also not quite on the same level as the prophesized utopian influx of commonwealth employment that would benefit the people of Glasgow(‘s East End).
A railing being stickered is an absolute non-issue as far as I’m concerned. What I do find interesting is how unanimous condemnation of the vandalism of that railing seemed to be across the Celtic forums. Putting aside the ultimately vapid expressions of outrage about the ‘scum’, ‘filth’ or, even worse, ‘neds’ responsible, and equally vapid arguments about vandalism being inherently wrong and disrespectful to other people’s property, the main line seems to be that people have a problem with ‘our own’ stickering ‘our own’. This response to one stickered railing is interesting in its conception of what is and is not ‘ours’. Firstly, it assumes that the only tenable response to stadium development is uniform support and positivity. Looking at the new Celtic Way within the context of Commonwealth redevelopment and Celtic’s complicity in that; within the context of Celtic’s charitable roots catering for the poor and destitute of the East End; and within the context of modernization, obsession with an exterior gaze, and attempts to homogenize and depoliticize the Celtic support, some Celtic fans may be more cynical about the Celtic Way than others. It is a valid, tenable position to feel that the Celtic Way, built as part of the Commonwealth regeneration initiative is representative of a type of modernisation that looks to create a ‘squeaky clean’, apolitical image of Celtic in the international arena. Some may feel that it caters more for International dignitaries, athletes, visiting teams, and tourists than for the local supporters. Some may argue that Celtic should be paying the Living Wage to its employees before investing money in Commonwealth redevelopment. Anyone who conceptualizes the space of the Celtic Walkway in one of these ways would perhaps welcome Celtic supporters putting Brother Walfrid stickers at the foot of the Celtic Way. Perhaps they would also welcome stickers with the name of a group of Celtic supporters dedicated to charity and anti-discrimination, in keeping with what many feel are the roots of this club.
It’s unfair to say there are 60,000 supporters in Celtic Park on European nights. It’s unfair to say there are 60,000 spectators. Everyone, including the shareholders and board, is drawn under this umbrella term ‘fan’. Having a season ticket or match ticket doesn’t get you a seat at the Shareholder’s table. It allows you to watch the PLC’s team. Celtic fans may have taken centre stage on Sunday but when we’re sitting on trains having our drink confiscated on the way to Murrayfield, that’s when we’ll experience the reality of our position. It may feel like it’s our stadium when we’re in it, but it’s definitely theirs when they’re renting it out.