Celtic have today released the followng statement in response to Sunday's Panorama programme, screened by the BBC.
Panorama – February 27th 2005
It is disappointing that a programme we were assured would cover the issue of sectarianism in Scotland should choose to focus instead on the much narrower question of the role of Celtic and Rangers in this matter.
The broad spectrum of representatives at the recent Sectarian Summit showed that this is a far wider issue for Scottish society. Celtic were represented at the highest level at the summit and repeated clearly our commitment to the effort to eliminate sectarianism from Scottish society.
Instead, the programme chose to sensationalise the issues involved, without giving full recognition of the robust anti-sectarian stance taken by the club and the many vigorous steps we have taken both in education and enforcement over a period of many years.
Despite detailing these many initiatives during the interview with Brian Quinn and in separate discussions, they were largely omitted.
Unfortunately, there is currently no legal provision for banning orders in Scotland, enabling anyone to buy a ticket in a public sale, and in practice, Celtic are only able to take action against season ticket holders, who account for 53,000 of our stadium capacity of 60,000.
This season, season ticket holders have visited the ground over one million times, and of this number there were 26 arrests. Twenty-two were drink-related and four had an alleged sectarian dimension. Of that four, there has so far been one person convicted of sectarian behaviour.
Any season ticket holder convicted of such an offence will automatically have their ticket revoked, but the low number of arrests is, we believe, a compelling reflection of the success achieved at Celtic Park. It was illuminating that, despite secret filming, the programme failed to show a single incident of bad behaviour amongst our own support at Celtic Park
So far as away fixtures are concerned, Celtic has very limited powers to deal with any offences caused by its supporters. Responsibility for such enforcement lies with the home club and the local police force. Nevertheless, Celtic sends stewards to many away grounds to assist the home club and local police in maintaining public order. Again, any season-ticket holder convicted of sectarian offences at away games will receive an automatic indefinite suspension of their ticket.
The good behaviour of Celtic’s fans has been highlighted in recent years after 80,000 supporters travelled to Seville for the UEFA Cup Final in 2003, without a single arrest, leading to them receiving both the FIFA and UEFA Fair Play Awards for that year. More recently, we received letters of praise for our fans from the police chiefs in both Barcelona and Milan after this season’s Champions’ League matches.
It is extremely encouraging that our own fans have been active in bringing the small minority displaying this sort of behaviour to the attention of stewards and police at Celtic Park. They, like the club, utterly condemn sectarianism in all its forms - a point club chairman Brian Quinn made repeatedly throughout the recording of his interview.