Poor Show From Panorama

Last updated : 01 March 2005 By Kevin Smith

When sitting down to watch last night’s Panorama documentary, “Scotland’s Secret Shame,” I was interested to see how the BBC were planning to show a programme about sectarianism between Celtic and Rangers in such a limited timeslot of 40 minutes. The sectarianism issue is as broad as they come and if someone is going to make a decent, well researched programme about the subject, it would take at least four or five hours.

It turns out though, that 40 minutes was just about as much as I could take of this pathetic effort at examining the sectarianism issue in Scottish football. If it had been on for any longer, I doubt I would be the only one who turned over to watch the Carling Cup highlights on ITV.

Panorama used to be one of the highlights of the BBC and for many, it was essential viewing. It has been widely known to be a respectable, well made programme. Last night, however, Panorama found themselves scraping the barrel for a 40 minute television show, which has been appropriately summed up today as nothing more than tabloid journalism.

My initial reaction to the programme was what I expected it to be. I was angered at certain parts of it, but didn’t let it bother me too much. Today, however, after taking a while to think about it and reflect, I feel disgusted of the non-realistic image the BBC have projected to the whole of Britain, of Celtic Football Club.

We all know that sectarianism is a problem in football, and something must be done about it. It is no worse than racism – a problem which is slowly but surely getting stamped out of the game. I feel the BBC should be congratulated for doing the show in the first place. Sectarianism is something that cannot be ignored any longer, and fair play to Panorama for at least attempting to do something to solve it. However, they must be condemned for failing to provide an accurate or decent account of the subject. If they were going to make the programme in the first place, why not do it right?

First of all, the programme looked to be an English production. Why is this? Would you ever see a Scottish production crew going to England to film a documentary about Manchester United and Manchester City? The answer is no. This is because a team of Scottish producers would not have the first clue about goings on in Manchester. They were not born there, they do not live there and they are not in a position to make a documentary about something which they have no knowledge of whatsoever.

The BBC possibly installed an English crew to avoid any bias which may have been present had it been a team of Glaswegian reporters. But surely they would have been able to put together a decent crew who would be much more suited to making the show? From the outset, it was clear that no one taking part in the making of the documentary had any background into the subject in question. Why do you think the likes of MacIntyre Undercover worked with former football casuals when making a documentary about Chelsea Headhunters? Someone with a bit of knowledge of the Old Firm should have been installed to make or assist in the making of last night’s documentary.

Looking back, the documentary was littered with inaccuracies and mistakes.

We were shown the Accident and Emergency ward at a Glasgow hospital, and the images on show were certainly shocking. People slashed and stabbed because of the team they support is not something which should not be happening in 2005, and my heart goes out to those unfortunate enough to have been affected by this. Two surgeons were interviewed and claimed the number of patients admitted to A&E on the night of the recent Old Firm game was 14. Hardly a staggering figure, is it? We were not told the average number of victims in Glasgow on any other weekend night, but having been at an A&E ward on a Saturday night, my guess is that 14 patients on a weekend evening in Glasgow would be pretty mild. Also, it would be interesting to view the numbers admitted to A&E at a Premiership derby match.

We seen on a few occasions, a choir who sang bits of several songs, “Hello, Hello,” “The Sash,” “The Boys Of The Old Brigade” and “A Soldier’s Song.” These are four songs which have obviously been picked out as “unacceptable” at football matches.

Starting with the Rangers songs, “Hello, Hello” is belted out by the entire Rangers crowd at all of their matches. It is their equivalent to “Hail Hail” in terms of the amount of times it is sung during a match. When Rangers score, “Hello, Hello” is the first song which Rangers supporters sing. Firstly, the song was wrongly referred to by the reporter as a song about King Billy. The song is actually in tribute to a 1950’s razor gang based in Bridgeton, ran by Billy Fullerton, whose party piece was to murder Catholics. I know this doesn’t make the song any more credible whatsoever, but I am only pointing out an inaccuracy from the BBC. I have grown up hearing this song at Old Firm games and have never really looked into it much. But the lyrics, “We’re up to our knees in Fenian blood, surrender or you’ll die,” are possibly the most offensive words in any football song, sung by any support. Why do Rangers continually sing this song at games, home and away? Why so regularly? It is absurd how they get away with it.

“The Sash” is an anthem for the Orange Order. It has been proven in court that it is not a sectarian song, but a folk song. It is also sung regularly at Rangers matches. Whether folk songs should be allowed at football games is a whole new argument, but why did the BBC choose to show this song, and not, for example, “No Pope Of Rome?” Panorama also cleverly edited out the shouts at the end of the song, “Fuck the Pope!” Why?

The programme did though, show Rangers supporters’ ditty, “You are a Fenian bastard,” which was sung at Celtic Park last week and is sheer, blatant bigotry of the highest order.

The choir’s choice of Celtic songs was also strange, and also backs up the argument that the producers were not aware of much going on in Old Firm world. “The Boys Of The Old Brigade” is a song about the Easter Rising of 1916, when a father recollects to his son about “joining the IRA.” The IRA of 1916 are not the same organisation as the Provisional IRA or the Real IRA of today. The song is not sectarian, and can be classed alongside “The Sash” in this sense.

The other choice has offended many Irish people. “A Soldier’s Song” is the national anthem of the Republic of Ireland. It is no different to “Flower Of Scotland” or “God Save The Queen.” It is absolutely outrageous that BBC allowed this to be classed alongside a song about killing people because of their religion, and the BBC should apologise for this.

As I said, the choice of songs were strange. Why not include “Roamin’ In The Gloamin’” as one of the dodgy songs sung by Celtic fans, or even the line, “Soon there’ll be no Protestants at all,” which is sung by some in “We’re On The One Road.” Perhaps these were not included as they are not ‘popular’ enough within the Celtic support. In fact, it is only a small majority who sing these songs but they can be heard at some away games.

We were shown a march, which was referred to as a “Republican march.” The march, however, was in memory of Bloody Sunday. There were a few Celtic strips spotted by marchers, who were clearly heard chanting, “PIRA.” For anyone watching in England, this scene would look like Celtic fans go out marching en route to Celtic Park every fortnight, and sing about the PIRA. Only because I live in Glasgow did I know of the march, but how does it look for someone who had never heard of it?

On the subject of marches, I did not see one single Orange parade on last night’s show. The Bloody Sunday March was the first this year in Glasgow and will probably be the first of maybe three or four at the most. Orange Walks, however, are far more regular. Why were they not mentioned on Panorama? The Grandmaster of the Orange Lodge of Scotland was pictured, yet not one mention of Orange Parades was heard. This is incredible, especially when Jack McConnell has planned to cut down the number of marches in Scotland.

There was also the omission of the subject of Catholic schooling in Scotland. Some people see this as a catalyst for sectarianism and whether you agree with that or not, the subject should have been mentioned.

The reporter filmed Celtic supporters at Rugby Park and Pittodrie this season, using a hidden camera. The line, “I joined the IRA” in “The Boys Of The Old Brigade” was met by boos from the Aberdeen fans. This was also the game when “Aiden McAnespie” was sung for a long period of the second half. Many question why Celtic fans sing this song, and again, that argument is for another day. But I don’t see any references to Protestants and blood in any of the above songs.

From a Rangers perspective, their fans were filmed at Celtic Park in the January cup game, and last week. Fans were seen, clearly giving Nazi salutes whilst singing “Rule Britannia.” Rangers’ Security Officer Lawrence MacIntyre said later that this was a “Red-handed salute,” representing the Red hand in the flag of Ulster. This is complete rubbish from MacIntyre. I imagine a “Red-handed” salute to be one holding their hand up straight, with it facing forward. The salutes from the Rangers fans, caught on camera, were right arms raised at an upward angle – Nazi salues.

Once again, I refer to the programme’s English audience. It is well known that most clubs in the English Premiership have a “right-wing” element to their support, even if it is only a few skinheads who fire up Nazi salutes at any opportunity. Nazi salutes are not a massive deal to someone watching last night’s programme, who is a regular attendee at Chelsea away games. But to them, lines in songs like, “I joined the IRA” are a big deal. Once again we have been shown in a very bad light.

Now, everyone knows that the away support are the “hardcore,” not just for Celtic, but for most clubs. They are the fans who are prepared to travel hundreds of miles on wet weeknights in the hope of watching their team pick up three points. The Rangers songs listed above are sung at Ibrox, as well as away games. Anyone who denies this is kidding themselves on. However, when was the last time you heard “Aiden McAnespie” or “The Boys Of The Old Brigade,” belted out by thousands of fans at Celtic Park? I recall hearing “The Boys Of The Old Brigade” at last week’s game, but it was only sung by a small minority for a short time. These facts were not pointed out on Panorama.

Celtic Chief Executive Brian Quinn was quoted saying Celtic FC could not control their away supporters, as they are not season ticket holders. Now, I have a couple of mates who only go to away games as they can’t get a season ticket for Celtic Park, but for Quinn to suggest this is absolutely unbelievable. Where does he think away fans get their tickets? From Celtic Ticket Services, and you must be registered on the away registration scheme to get them. As I said, there will be a few who only go to away matches, but surely Quinn got his words mixed up, or did we just not understand what he meant? It would be nice for him to come out and explain the quote, as a lot of Celtic supporters have reacted angrily to this.

Overall, I think Quinn came across well. He stated there was no place for sectarian songs at Celtic Park and they have taken great strides to eradicate it. However, I do not for one minute believe that Celtic cannot take action against the away support. The truth is if they want to do it, they could.

Rangers Chairman, David Murray was also interviewed, and he stuttered his way through the whole thing. He refused to say if he was ashamed of Rangers fans’ songs on a couple of occasions. Wouldn’t you be ashamed if you were the top man of a 50,000 plus organisation who sing about killing Catholics week in, week out? But thinking about it, why wasn’t Quinn asked the same questions?

The BBC showed an image that all Celtic fans are Catholic, and all Rangers fans are Protestant. Anyone with half a brain knows that this is not true. It is a generalisation which should be stopped, as it is not a true reflection of both our supports. Jock Stein, Celtic’s finest ever manager was a Protestant, but why would the BBC tell anyone this?

Another issue that was sidestepped was the supposed anti-Catholic signing policy by Rangers FC for over 100 years. Once again, why?

Anyone looking in who didn’t know anything about the Old Firm would think that all Rangers fans hate Celtic and vice versa. It would also appear that we all go out looking for fights after Old Firm games, and we are all “lucky to get home” on Old Firm days. What guff! I know for a fact that many Celtic and Rangers supporters drink in the same pubs, both on matchdays and non-matchdays, together. We also work together and some of us even play five a sides together. We do not despise each other in the way which was made out last night. Every football club has rivals – it’s what football is all about. I would doubt that nowadays, the hatred between Celtic and Rangers fans is not much worse than Manchester United and Liverpool.

Indeed, it seems that the BBC’s agenda was to make out that Celtic and Rangers fans were all mindless thugs with nothing better to do with their time than fight. In my season ticket seat, I sit in front of a CID Officer of Strathclyde Police and two seats away from a lawyer. But the image last night was of half a dozen drunken youths “pavement dancing.” There was no evidence to say this was a “fight” relating in any way whatsoever to Celtic or Rangers. Once boy had a Sweden top on, which would suggest he was a Celtic supporter, due to the Henrik Larsson connection, but what was there to suggest that it was an Old Firm fuelled fight? It was not outside Celtic Park or Ibrox, but looked to be some rough housing estate in Glasgow.

Why did Panorama interview two boys serving sentences in Polmont Young Offenders Centre? One was said to be a Celtic fan, and one a Rangers fan. Two boys in prison are not what I would call a fair representation of Celtic and Rangers fans. The “Celtic fan” was heard saying when Celtic get beat off of Rangers, the first thing on his mind is fighting with a Rangers fan. How many people do you know who actually follow this line of thinking? Yet once again, the BBC attempt to brainwash their viewers into thinking that’s what we all do when our team lose, go out and pick fights.

I was surprised that they showed the word ‘Tim’ as an offensive term. Looking on various Celtic forums, half of the users have Tim in their name. Interviewing a girl who admitted she didn’t know anything about the subject, and a woman who thought everything wasn’t “very nice” was a strange choice, why not ask real football supporters what they thought of the words Tim and Hun?

I also wonder why there was no mention of the treatment of Neil Lennon by Rangers fans. Songs like “Hang Neil Lennon,” and “Lennons’s A Shitebag” are not exactly harmless banter with a player on an opposing side. Lennon has been subjected to death threats and has forced to retire from international football, since joining Celtic. He has also been attacked on a few occasions in the street. Surely this would be more relevant to a programme looking into sectarianism than two prison inmates giving their strange comments on the Old Firm?

The programme was entitled, “Scotland’s Secret Shame,” yet only Celtic and Rangers were featured. How many times have you been called a “Fenian” so and so at grounds like Tynecastle and Fir Park? I can also recall witnessing many Nazi salutes at the said grounds, and at Pittodrie earlier this year. For goodness’ sake, if you are going to make a programme about a subject, why not look into it a bit?

I was angered at the decision to play the Forbes McFall interview with Martin O’Neill a few years ago, especially as Alex McLeish has never been offered the same question. I am sure the last thing Martin O’Neill wants to be involved in is the sectarian issue between Celtic and Rangers fans.

However, the most despicable part of Panorama was the claim that Celtic supporters disrupted a minute’s silence at Fir Park, in memory of September 11th. It was well documented at the time that the songs being sung were coming from outside the ground, from latecomers who had no idea a minute’s silence was taking place. The BBC’s lying on this matter just about summed the whole show up.

So where do we go now? Yet another question which Panorama failed to answer. In fact, they didn’t even offer an explanation! It’s going to be tough kicking this out of the Old Firm. As I said before, what is a sectarian song and what is a political song is a totally different matter. But one thing is sure, if the media do not speak up about things which happen at games, like the singing about killing Catholics, then they have a cheek to make shoddy, inaccurate, badly made programmes like “Scotland’s Secret Shame.”

The programme probably put another cross against our name in our bid to gain entry to the Premiership in England. However, I suggest that anyone with doubts about our support take a look at our fans’ behaviour en route to the UEFA Cup Final in 2001, which won us Fair Play Awards from FIFA and UEFA. Why not email these organisations and ask them what they think of the Celtic support?

I think you’ll find their reply will be, “The Greatest Fans In The World.”

Keep The Faith,

Kevin Smith