Honestly, the sun always shines on the Glencoe Car Park Run.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Time To Bring Back The Jungle

On Saturday 6th April I attended a Celtic game with my son, almost forty years to the day since my dad took me to the Celtic v Dundee Scottish Cup Semi-Final. He took me to many games before that one but that's the first I can definitely place a time and date. I was six years old.

It's thirty years this month since my dad passed away suddenly. He was a typical working class man from the West of Scotland. Worked in a whisky bond during the week and watched Celtic at the weekends. Back then it didn't cost him anything extra to take me to the games; a lift over the gates ensured that, meaning I got to experience watching a Celtic team that was one of the best in Europe at a time when televised games were rare.

It's twenty one years since my own son was born. For many different reasons I've never attended a game with him. Money, or lack of it, being the most prevalent reason. I'm sure that's a similar tale for many.

Two friends attended the game with us on Saturday. Both were season ticket holders until recently and attended games home and away. None of them can afford that level of expenditure now and don't attend any games.

Over the last few weeks I've conducted a somewhat unscientific bit of empirical research. It won't be published in any respected scientific journal but it may or may not ring a few bells.

If I'm not working I watch most televised Celtic games either in my house or a friend's around the corner. There's usually about ten of us, ages ranging from twenty to forty six.

The youngest sometimes go to a few games but it's never planned and not regular.

The late twenties to early forties have all been season ticket holders in the past. None of them attend any games now.

I've never been a season ticket holder and rarely go to games these days. My time was the seventies and eighties, then I got married, a mortgage and a management job working weekends.

The reasons given for not attending games now were mainly cost, working weekends and watching weans.

I contacted a few old mates who stood in The Jungle back in the day. None of them go to the games now. They gave the same reasons as above.

All but one of those in this small sample has a job. The one that doesn't have a job lost his sight after being attacked.

Some of the jobs are security guard, plumber, social worker, waiter, labourer, factory worker.

More than half of them rent their home from a housing association of local authority.

They are working class.

They are working class Celtic supporters.

They are working class Celtic supporters who would love to be able to take their kids to games at Celtic Park.

They would love to not only see their team playing attacking football and winning matches, but also get their kids into the habit of going to games, like their dads did with them, and their dads before that.

The working class have been the core of the Celtic support since its humble beginnings.

It is this group who kept faith with the club during the lean years on the park between and after the wars.

That's because our fathers, and their fathers, and their fathers' fathers believed Celtic represented them and their beliefs.

Not only was the club proud of its Irish roots but it also stood up for the poor in Glasgow's East End.

How many of today's poor in the East End of Glasgow can afford to watch Celtic at Celtic Park?

There's been a lot in the press recently, as well as a petition, about whether Conservative MP Ian Duncan Smith could survive on £53 a week.

More to the point, as far as this piece is concerned, is whether a father could take one of his kids to Celtic Park with the same £53.

Buying the cheapest seats for an adult and under 16 juvenile for the Celtic v Hibs game last week cost £40. This got you both seats with restricted views.

Adding travel and food costs soon took you over the £53 target, unless you lived within walking distance and are on a diet.

This level of pricing is a substantial barrier to many in Glasgow who class themselves as Celtic supporters but can't afford to physically support the team they love.

It is not their fault Glasgow is an economic black spot.

The vast majority of the fan base are unseen for one reason or another. Many are below the poverty line and socially excluded.

These are the people the club was founded to help.

Does being skint make anyone less of a supporter than those able to afford going to games?

Does being able to afford Season Tickets, away games, European trips elevate individuals to preferred supporter status?

Is love of the club measured by an individual's economic status?

Season ticket sales boomed when the old ground was knocked down and replaced by the shiny new stadium.

I remember it fairly well for many reasons.

Here's one that stood out.

A number of my friends, most of whom I'd never attended a Celtic game with, all bought season tickets, because they could afford one.

This same group also took great pride in boasting about how many shares they'd bought.

The lads who'd travelled the country watching Celtic with me during the eighties stopped going to the games because they couldn't afford a season ticket.

Neither did any of them buy shares.

Looking back, it's fair to say there was a feeling of disenfranchisement among those of us in the lower socioeconomic grouping.

A split in our support had occurred.

However, the club could afford to ignore this split as the ground was full every week. In the eyes of Celtic everything was rosy.

The pounds were rolling in.

Quality players from around the world lined up to pull on the famous hoops.

The club was on the road to success off and on the park.

Yet, even with sixty thousand fans packed into the ground, the atmosphere during most games was sorely lacking.

There was a better atmosphere during the games I attended in the seventies and eighties even though the average crowds were much lower.

Surprise yourself by clicking the following link and finding out what size of crowds followed Celtic throughout their history.

The large average crowds of the last sixteen years have been something of an anomaly.

I believe, that like the UK's economy, the Celtic attendance bubble is about to burst.

What will the atmosphere be like when average crowds fall back to the levels they've been for the majority of the club's existence?

If sixty thousand fans couldn't create a decent atmosphere week-in week-out what chance for twenty-thirty thousand spread out in a sixty thousand all-sweater stadium?

This is one of many dilemmas facing Celtic.

Section 111 was given to a group of Celtic supporters to help create a better atmosphere at games.

Unfortunately, for Celtic's Chief Executive Peter Lawwell, this boisterous group of fans don't appear to subscribe to his vision of what Celtic represent.

This is not a criticism of Peter Lawwell's stewardship. He and the board have steered the ship well during the good times as the club rode the crest of a wave in terms of full houses at Celtic Park. But the times are indeed changing and the board must act accordingly.

The fans who packed into the old Jungle for decades were the beating heart of the atmosphere at Celtic Park.

The fans in Section 111 are now the beating heart of the atmosphere at Celtic Park.

Both beating hearts like to make a lot of noise and celebrate Irish history as well as Celtic's.

Celebrating Irish history entails remembering how a disenfranchised nation threw off the shackles of British Imperialism and oppression.

Celebrating Irish history entails recognising that the struggle for a united Ireland is ongoing and didn't end with the partition of Ireland.

Celebrating Irish history entails singing about individuals who gave their lives for their beliefs.

What today's group of fans don't sing about is Protestants.

Neither do they sing about any other religion.

Neither do they think it's alright to call anyone Pakis.

If there's one thing that needs repeating it's songs about Ireland are not in any way sectarian, no matter what some biased observers may claim.

Only recently Rangers blogger John Gow tried to pigeon-hole this type of singing as political sectarianism.

This is the sign of a desperate man who wants the Celtic support tarred with the same sectarian brush as the Rangers fans reported to the police by a television company.

Not even the Scottish government tried to attach the political sectarianism label to the signing of Irish songs.

They claim songs about the IRA are offensive, but they know the songs can't be classed as sectarian, because Flower of Scotland would have to be labelled likewise.

The dilemma facing Dermot Desmond and Peter Lawwell is this.

He could easily disband Section 111 by not renewing season tickets for that area for those situated there at present.

But doing so could prove disastrous. Season ticket sales will fall next season and without a dedicated singing section the old graveyard would have a better atmosphere than Celtic Park on match days.

There is, however, one way I'd give full support to Peter Lawwell if he decided to disband Section 111.

Follow the model implemented by the German teams in recent years. Remove all seating from the Lower North Stand. Reincarnate The Jungle.

Embrace the club's roots and make this area affordable to the poorer sections of Celtic supporters.

The place would be full and the noise incredible.

Alas, I am a dreamer.

For this group of supporters have more in common with those in Section 111 than those in the Celtic boardroom.

They won't go to watch Celtic. They'll go to support Celtic through colour and noise.

Some of that colour and noise might not be Peter Lawwell's cup of tea, but we must all remember, it's not his or Dermot Desmond's club.

The club belongs to the fans, and not just the fans who can afford Season Tickets, but also those fans who can't afford to actually go watch the team play. The poorer people in the East End of Glasgow and beyond. The reason the club was formed in the first place.

The business model that's served the club well over the last twenty years is a busted flush in terms of filling the ground.

The country is in a deeper recession than Thatcher's eighties.

Cameron and Osborne's austerity measures are attacking those in low-paid jobs and the unemployed.

The inhabitants of Scotland, and Glasgow's East End in particular, will suffer more than most.

It is time for the Celtic board to return the club to its roots, and one way of doing so is to introduce affordable pay at the gate safe standing areas to Celtic Park.

It is time to bring back The Jungle.


  1. You must be a mind reader, these are my exact sentiments on Celtic and the Irish question. Also you make a great point re the affordability of supporting Celtic and the working classes.

    1. Cheers mate. I write primarily for myself but its always comforting to know someone shares at least some of my views.

  2. Very well thought through, Kev.
    However, I may be wrong but I understood that the Celtic board had applied for permission to introduce safe standing areas and were knocked back by the council (on grounds of health and safety.)

    1. Thanks Henry. You may well be right about the Health and Safety issue, but I don't see why that can't be overcome in time. Might cost a bit, though.

  3. top piece, hat tipped, one of your best yet and very relevant in today's financial climate but i fear the suits will not listen, maybe a season of more empty seats at Celtic park will be the kick up the arse lawwell and co need. HH.

    1. Cheers mate. I think next season might be a bit of an eye opener for many, including the board.

  4. As i was reading this piece my mind drifted back to the days i stood in the jungle with my old man and his mates, getting a lift over to watch the carry out till the adults got in, the atmosphere was electric with the odd fight breaking out and older guys pishing in cans and pouring them down the terracing but one thing that was assured was that it was never silent like todays games. Regarding the cost, it was a point i made to Matt McGlone only today on twitter, on Sunday i will be at Hampden with my 3 sons and grandson making 3 generations of Cannons at the one game and all for the price of £55, but if i want to take my youngest son and grandson to Celtic park i have to pay £61 for just 3 of us with both kids being only 5 years old not including food and drinks for the boys this is in my opinion keeping our next generation of fans out of the ground as money is tight for all now, for Celtic to ask for £17 for a ticket for a 5 year old is nothing short of scandalous, unless the prices drop dramatically next season the kids wont get to go back to parkhead which is also scandalous they are the future life blood of the club If we can get into Hampden for £15 per adult and £5 for the kids why cant we do the same at parkhead and ensure we have our future support in the ground where they belong

    1. Cheers Joe. The old days were a bit spartan at times and I don't fancy someone peeing on my leg, but something has to be done to get people going to the games again. Hope you have a great day tomorrow.

  5. Very good piece, but I don't think you can cherrypick that part of the German game and expect it to work. It's a very different model. No single major shareholder, fans MUST own 51% of the shares (I believe), income, turnover and profit rules all different. Also, the youth development side of things is not only encouraged, but enforced. I would love to see a safe standing area brought back to CP, and I think this type of article can help convince many that the football fan has changed, in the same way the game has.

    1. Hi George. I think we have to try and cherry pick certain elements. Germany is the largest and richest nation in Europe. Being a minor country with just the one big club we couldn't implement everything the Germans do. But introduction of safe standing and cheaper admission could be a good place to start.

    2. I hear you - and it's certainly a better model to follow than the Azerbijiani League (or whoever were our major influences previously!). Cardiff have an active program to try and get the kids involved with the club. They provide a lot of pre-match entertainment in specific areas, and appears to be very popular. Scenes at Wembley at the weekend prove that seating inside the ground isn't a deterant to those who want to cause trouble.

    3. Those pesky Millwall supporters have a reputation to maintain. And as shocking as the pictures of Newcastle fans squaring up to police are, I don't hear any government enquiries being set up to combat soccer hooliganism. Imagine any of those scenes happened up here? Alex Salmond would have football banned.

  6. I was in Section 111, for the first time ever, at the Hibs game. The craic was ninety, the singing and chanting brilliant.
    I don't carry any weight as I rarely attend games and live in Ireland however I would like to say that the idea behind Section 111 should be extended by enlarging the Green Brigade section or creating another group at the Jock Stein side. £29 is alot to pay to attend a game, alright for an occasional like myself, but to build support and an atmosphere, its way too expensive in my opinion.
    I went to George Square before the game for the FAC rally and once again, brilliant. A great crowd, good speeches and it would be a good time for the club management to respond in a positive and progressive manner.
    I hope everyone is following up with the Celtic Trust appeal to e-mail their political representatives.

    1. Saturday was a great all round. From George Square to Celtic Park and then Paul Larkin's book launch at night.

      Without the constant noise produced by the Green Brigade the ground would have resembled a morgue. That's not the way it should be.

      My email has been sent. HH

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  8. Before any major change in stadium structure I believe there would not only have to be changes in legislation (although Scottish law is more relaxed on this than English law) but also a huge indication of demand.

    I went to the Jungle a few times in the mid-late eighties as a teenager and it was unbelievable atmosphere and experience compared to anything I'd seen at any of the London clubs I'd been to, where I lived.

    One thing that's changed between now and then is the demographics, there weren't many women at games in those days, and many of the footballing going public, men and women alike, like their comfort.

    Another thing is that UEFA rules state that all games are played in all-seater stadia. Luckily the Germans have already thought about that:

    If all that's 'standing' in the way of this is the apparent lack of demand then let the campaign start here.