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Celtic fans go on the PR offensive over “Old Firm” sectarian issues – should the club?

In Glasgow, Scotland just now there is one story dominating the headlines and that’s of the three bombs sent to prominent Celtic fans. Now, as always, it’s being tarred as a problem of the “Old Firm” but from where most people are sitting, there’s only one group being targetted by this.

Which begs the question, should Celtic now go on the offensive and refuse to be tarred as part of the “Old Firm sectarian problem”? As this G40 Celtic site shows, the fans certainly have – naming and shaming anything they see, including a captain of Berwick Rangers football team.

Before anyone gets accused of sweeping generalisations, let’s make one thing clear: both sides have die-hards, both sides have bampots and there are some for whom the football is nothing more than an excuse to indulge in hatred of others. For some, it’s not even about the football, just the hatred (“They’re sick” as Rangers manager-to-be Ally McCoist puts it so accurately here in an audio chat).

Having said that, the current situation seems to be attacks solely on Celtic-linked/supporting individuals, but in the press it’s still treated as “the Old Firm problem” when the individuals involved have done nothing to warrant this level of hatred and there’s little – if any – mention of Rangers management or supporters being treated in a similar manner, either now or historically.

From a brand management and PR point of view, it can’t be doing Celtic any good so could they step away from it? Yes, they could, but even for a club like Celtic – which goes for the jugular when it goes on the offensive – it would involve burning a lot of bridges.

Just as Portakabin objects to wrong uses of their name, Celtic could respond to every mention of “the Old Firm problem” by pointing out that they’ve done nothing wrong and neither have their fans. They could ask Strathclyde Police for figures on crime surrounding their fans at Old Firm games and publish them, they could swamp social media and the traditional press by responding to every allegation, every mention.

But what would the cost be? It wouldn’t cost them any football fans but it could inflame an already tense situation – and that could make matters far worse.

Which then begs the question? Does Celtic say nothing to try and keep the peace?

From a communicator’s point of view, it’s an interesting conundrum. Your brand is being portrayed (or rather co-portrayed with Rangers) in a negative light. The traditional response would be to respond, engage and try to turn the negatives. But in this case, nothing is done? Why? For the above reason? Or – as I am sure someone will point out or ask in the comments – is it an admission that the club itself (or some aspect of) is part of the problem?

And to be fair, could Rangers go on a similar PR offensive – or do something different – to try and get rid of the idiots that are tarnishing the club and earning them UEFA fines?

(As an aside: I always remember a chat with a Sunday newspaper editor back when I worked in newspapers and he pointed something out to me “you print a bad news story about a Celtic player and everyone buys it, there’s a sales spike. However print a similar story about someone at Rangers and sales go down. Rangers fans don’t buy bad news stories about their club, Celtic fans do.”)

There’s also some good writing on this whole issue here and here.

  1. Sorrynotthatbrave

    Good writing my arse. This is just more biased, pro-Celtic, we are not part of the problem, rubbish! John Reid saying that “Celtic will no longer be treated as second class citizens” that IS inflammatory, it hasn’t happened for years. If we want to get into nit picking there was a supermarket where I grew up which asked prospective employees which school they went to as a pretext for not employing Protestants. We ALL need to ditch this crap!

    Your fans are not whiter than White. The hate filled posts I read about ‘Huns’ every day of the week are testament to that. And let’s also not pretend that it is rangers fans sending these bombs, that is disingenuous and insulting, these people are just scum. So what exactly are Celtic distancing themselves from in this example that Rangers cannot? Or are you somehow linking us to these scum regardless? Cos that’s a dangerous road to go down ( Muslims and suicide bombers anyone?)

    • I never said all Rangers fans were to blame here – and I did acknowledge that Celtic have some bampots too. Your last line sums it up perfectly – we all need to ditch stuff. If Huns is sectarian, then yes it should be dropped, same with Tims.

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