Police Scotland in the firing line over crowd crushing chaos at Celtic Park
Standing room on the slopes of Celtic Park in Glasgow today.
By Bill Heaney
One of Scotland’s leading immigration lawyers hit out last night at the “absolute chaos” at Celtic Park as fans tried to get into the stadium prior to the Old Firm match which was attended by 60,000 spectators.
Lawyer Jamie Kerr and lecturer Gerry Keegan.
Dundee-based Jamie Kerr said: “Absolute chaos at Celtic Park. People being crushed. Turnstiles not open. Police not in control. Kids crying. Dreadful.”
The Celtic supporter added: “I’m in now 15 minutes late although I arrived 30 minutes early. [There are] people climbing over high walls and fences to get out.
“Hundreds [are being] being crushed and police are pushing people in different directions – and don’t know what they’re going.”
Gerard Keegan, a lecturer at Strathclyde University who used to work on security at Celtic Park, said: “That’s really unusual particularly for an Old Firm game. Usually it runs like a well-oiled machine. Plenty of staff, good communications, queue lines, stewards every two feet. That sort of thing.”
Yet another lawyer, Mike Dailly, of the Govan Law Centre, who comes from Dundee, said: “That’s shocking Jamie. Hope you are ok.”
Former Celtic director, Lord Provost of Glasgow and public relations consultant, Michael Kelly, pictured left, wrote on Facebook: “Good old Police Scotland.”
Gillian Williams added: “We were in the middle of it and turned back. Was really frightening. I was in bits panicking. God knows how the kids felt. Got through another turnstile out of the way.” Michael Kearns said: “It was the worst policing display I’ve ever seen. From many contenders. Senseless and dangerous. Disgusted.”
Vlad Bujanda Valiente added: “It was shocking. I was sent from one end to the other and would not let us through either. Police then tell me to go back to the end I came from.
“Eventually folk just pushed through. Complete disaster!”
Journalist Gearóid McGeough said: “It’s high time Police Scotland were called to account. They could have caused another Hillsborough today. They’re a disgrace.”
Dumbarton woman Louise McMcGinlay, who was at the game with her son, Lennon, pictured right with a pal and former Celtic goalkeeper David Marshall, said: “So they should be it was horrific.”
And Stephen Storrie said to that it was “a disgrace”.
He added: “Someone could have easily been hurt. [The police] planning was a joke.”
Superintendent Simon Jeacocke, the event commander for Police Scotland, said before the match that the only hitch anticipated by the police was dealing with the fact that, although the number of Rangers fans had been reduced to 800, they would be in the same end of the ground as Celtic fans.
Both clubs made a decision in May to slash the number of tickets given to opposition supporters at their respective home games, with only 800 Rangers fans attending Celtic Park on Sunday compared to 7,000 in the past.
After the match, however, it emerged that one fan was rushed to hospital after falling from a wall and four others were treated by first aiders amid “crush” claims.
Chief Superintendent Brian McInulty, of Police Scotland, pictured left, said: “Five people were treated by first aiders when fans were attempting to get into the stadium in the lead up to kick-off at Janefield Street. This was a dynamic situation, occurring ten minutes before the match started.
“Officers and stewards reacted quickly upon realising there was an issue and put in place measures to relieve the congestion. This included putting in place cordons to prevent further entry at Janefield Street and opening up London Road to allow fans to access the stadium from the South.”
Superintendent McInulty added that Police Scotland intend to liaise with Celtic to avoid similar issues in the future. He said: “We work closely with Celtic Football Club to ensure the safety of all fans attending matches. We plan and practice various scenarios to ensure that if an incident occurs it will be dealt with as quickly as possible, as happened in this case. We will review today’s incident and work with Celtic to ensure any learning is quickly put in place.”
Celtic’s supporter liaison officer John Paul Taylor also apologised to fans and told of his intention to avoid a repeat. He said: “Apologies to fans affected by overcrowding issue at North Stand earlier, the Club will be investigating the cause to ensure no recurrence.”
But the fans were far from mollified. One tweeted: “Police Scotland shut the gates under the North Stand. Massive crush. Thousands of fans were stuck outside. Police made an arse of it.”
Update on crowd crush threat story:
Meanwhile, today (Tuesday), Police Scotland say they have held “constructive” talks with Celtic after fans were caught up in a crush outside the club’s stadium at the weekend.
BBC Scotland is reporting that Celtic has apologised to supporters involved in the incident.
After a meeting Ch Supt Brian McInulty said there was no evidence to suggest a gate was closed in the lead up to the match. He said police would meet with fans’ groups to discuss their concerns.
Celtic said on Monday that the game was the first occasion which featured new segregation and access arrangements for the Old Firm fixture.
Some fans said the new plan resulted in some supporters being forced to climb over a high fence to escape the overcrowding, with one falling from a wall.
Police Scotland had promised a “thorough and comprehensive” debrief of the policing and stewarding operation.
Following a meeting with Celtic, Ch Supt McInulty said: “There were a number of points discussed and actions which will be taken forward. Later this week I will meet with representatives from Celtic FC supporters clubs regarding any concerns they may have. I am aware of a lot of conflicting information being circulated regarding what took place. I can confirm that having carried out a comprehensive multi-agency debrief today, we have found no evidence to support suggestions that the gate on Janefield Street was closed at any time in the lead up to kick off.”
The incident happened about 20 minutes before the 12:00 kick-off as Celtic supporters tried to make their way into the stadium.
Police had earlier cordoned off a section of London Road to allow Rangers’ 800 fans access, forcing more home supporters than usual to use the Janefield Street entry point. Hundreds of people were then caught in a two-way crush in the corridor under the stadium’s North Stand.
Celtic fan Jamie Kerr, who was in the middle of the crush, told BBC Scotland: “It was actually very, very frightening. The good nature of the tunnel very quickly turned into one of worry, one of panic. There were kids crying.”
Celtic supporter groups called for a thorough investigation. and the the Celtic Trust called for fan groups to be involved in any debrief with the club and police.
Ch Supt McInulty said lessons would be learned from Sunday’s incident and said the safety of people attending football matches remained “the absolute priority for Police Scotland”.
In a statement on Monday, Celtic said: “Our total focus now is to work with the police in looking at these arrangements and other circumstances surrounding this particular fixture and to take the correct action to ensure this situation is never repeated. Our priority will always be to ensure our supporters enjoy a safe and positive experience at Celtic Park.”