The Celtics are a professional Scottish football (soccer) club founded in 1887 by Irish Catholic immigrants in Glasgow with the goal of raising money for needy Irish and Catholic families in the East End. With the football team starting as an avenue for social and political change, it is no surprise that Celtics fans are overwhelmingly left-leaning.

Nearly 136 years after its formation, the football club still remains connected to its strong Irish roots. The Irish, having witnessed the detrimental realities of settler colonialism firsthand, are one of Palestines’ most vocal supporters, so it is not uncommon for Celtics fans to regularly fly Palestinian flags at matches. Amidst the genocide Israel is conducting in Gaza, many Celtics fans, especially those in the Green Brigade, are increasing their show of support, taking to the stadium to show their solidarity with Palestine.   

Following repeated displays of solidarity with Palestine, Celtic’s “ultra” fan club, the Green Brigade, was recently banned from attending all further Celtic Football Club games this season. Completely funded by fan and member donations and known for its “anti-fascist” political stance, the Green Brigade often creates political displays for issues across the globe. The goal of the “ultra” club is to explore the intersection between football and politics, sending a meaningful political message while supporting their team and stimulating the environment of their home stadium, Celtic Park. 

Formed in the summer of 2006, the Green Brigade is an openly political, Celtic “ultra” group showing “solidarity with causes from Ireland to Palestine.” In the early days, the “ultra” group found their home in the back rows of Section 111 of Celtic Park, inciting fans from every section to come and join them. As the Green Brigade continued to expand, Celtics Football Club was forced to talk business, offering the Green Brigade a block of 300 seats in Section 111.   

This is not the first time this “ultra” club has run into trouble for their political displays. In November of 2010, in what is considered their most notorious act to date, the Green Brigade protested the embezzlement of a Poppy, a symbol for British military actions, onto the Celtic jerseys. Members of the brigade gatherers in the stands, unveiling banners reading “YOUR DEEDS WILL SHAME ALL THE DEVILS IN HELL – IRELAND, IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN” and “NO BLOODSTAINED POPPY ON OUR HOOPS.” Despite the Green Brigade being some of the strongest Celtics supporters, following this display of collective action, the club vowed to ban all participants in the stunt from attending future Celtics matches.    

On Aug. 17, 2016, the Celtics hosted a Champions League Qualifications Fixture match against Israeli team Hapoel Beer-Sheva. In spite of UEFA guidelines, the Green Brigade covered section 111 in Palestinian flags. This resulted in an £8,600 ($10,511.77) fine, resulting in the Green Brigade campaign “#MatchTheFineForPalestine,” a fundraising campaign hoping to raise the fine amount as a donation for Palestinian relief. As they continuously surpassed their fundraising for Palestine goal, the “ultra” club continued to set new targets and donate to relief efforts; ultimately, over £176,076 ($215,217.52) were raised and split between Medical Aid for Palestine (MAP) and The Lajee Center.  

In 2019, the Green Brigade, in collaboration with The Lajee Center, officially launched the Aida Celtic, a club designed “to provide young Palestinian refugee footballers with a fully equipped and financed football setup.” Central to the success of this club were the donations garnered during the “#MatchTheFine” campaign; to keep the Football club open, the Green Brigade constantly fundraises and partners with a multitude of organizations. It is the hope of the “ultra” club that the “Aida Celtic, who sit in the shadow of an illegal separation wall, will be the next example” of football breaking barriers and bringing hope.  

The Union of European Football Association (UEFA) guidelines have recently banned flying the Palestinian flag during matches, encouraging football teams to only allow their fans to bring in displays relating to the competing teams or risk fines. This has not stopped the Green Brigade from violating these guidelines and showing solidarity with Palestinians during both home and away Celtics matches throughout the last month.

The “ultra” group’s first pro-Palestine display this month occurred during the Celtic’s home match against Kilmarnock on Oct.7 following Gaza’s “break out of prison.” Members of the Green Brigade displayed two large banners reading “Free Palestine” and “Victory to the Resistance.” 

In response to this display of solidarity with Palestine, Celtic Football Club issued a statement condemning the actions of the Green Brigade, stating, “Celtic is a football club and not a political organization … One of our core values from inception is to be open to all regardless of race, color, politics or creed. That is why the club has always made clear that political messages and banners are not welcome at Celtic Park or any match involving Celtic.” 

Despite the message put out by the Celtics, the Green Brigade continues to push for its members to have the right to express their political beliefs. The “ultra” group is encouraging supporters to “courageously fly the flag for Palestine,” distributing thousands of flags outside Celtic Park in spite of the recent flag ban. 

On Oct. 22, during an away match against the Hearts, members of the Green Brigade smuggled Palestinian flags into the stadium in order to pass them out to fans. The Green Brigade section and parts of the stadium were covered with Palestinian flags and symbols of Palestinian resistance, demonstrating the “ultra” groups’ unwavering support to the cause. 

Because of this stunt, the Green Brigade was denied their usual early entry into section 111 of the stadium during the Celtics UEFA championship league against Atlético de Madrid on Oct. 25. During this championship match, in another display of collective action, members of the Green Brigade dressed in red, black, green and white, all colors of the Palestinian flag, to create a giant Palestinian flag out of their section of the crowd. 

Before the match took place, Celtics club staff issued a statement saying that Celtics players and coaching staff would wear black armbands “as a show of respect and support for all those affected by the conflict.” The club also said that any banners, flags and symbols relating to the conflict and those countries involved in it are not displayed at Celtic Park at this time.” Fans paid no attention to this ingenious attempt at neutrality in the face of genocide and continued to wave flags throughout the duration of the match. However, fans paid no heed to the directives and held up thousands of Palestine flags ahead of kickoff and continued to wave them during the match.

The Green Brigade has been banned from future Celtics games, with the club citing “unsafe and unacceptable behavior” as the reason. The “ultra” club themselves have other ideas for why they were suspended, stating, “We have absolutely no doubt that these sanctions are motivated by a desire to quash political expression within the Celtic support, specifically in relation to Palestine at this time … Despite this and any further obstruction, we once again encourage fans to courageously fly the flag for Palestine.”