Celtic FC is to close the ‘Green Brigade’ safe standing section of Celtic Park stadium for the next two matches after serious incidents of unsafe behaviour at the last two competitive matches at the ground.
The Scottish club is writing to the 900 season-ticket holders affected to explain its position and next steps.
The decision, which has been taken amid serious safety concerns and after discussion with the police, follows events at the matches against Hearts in May and Linfield last Wednesday night.
Celtic said the safe standing area of the stadium had been working very well until the final game of last season against Hearts, when large numbers of flares were smuggled into and set off under banners within the Green Brigade section.
The club said in a statement:
It was an incredibly irresponsible and co-ordinated action which could have had tragic consequences. The club understands that consideration was given to halting this crucial game because of the thick smoke, which was blowing across the stadium and into other sections of the support and posed a serious safety risk to all those in the stadium. The fire alarm was activated, resulting in the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service responding to the stadium.
Celtic said it will continue to investigate the events at the matches in question and to address the issues that arose.
Club Chief Executive Peter Lawwell said:
The behaviour of fans in the Green Brigade section of the ground at the matches against Hearts and Linfield was a serious safety risk, which has left us with no choice but to take decisive action to ensure safety within the stadium.
There is no room for debate. The safety authorities and the football authorities make the rules. They also enforce the rules. If the rules are broken, Celtic will be punished again and again. There is no hiding place from these realities. Anyone who has Celtic’s interests at heart must surely recognise them and behave accordingly.
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers added:
It’s really disappointing that we are talking about stadium safety and paramilitary banners rather than our progress into the next round of Europe.
The fans have a responsibility to behave in the stadium and I would urge everyone involved to see the damage this is causing to the club. Hopefully this is a wake-up call.