This interview is reproduced from Issue 40 of TÁL Fanzine
1/ Where, when & why did the club start?
A/ The club was formed in the summer of 2001 on the back of the treble winning season. Following a mass meeting of RMT Union Reps to discuss industrial action against the privatisation plans of London Underground Limited (LUL), a number of us retired to a local bar. Many of us present were either Irish or Scottish & the talk soon turned to the Celtic. Although we were all in different CSC's in the South East we felt there was sufficient numbers & interest to set up a CSC of our own. The inaugural meeting was held a few weeks later & the Underground Celtic Supporters Club (UCSC) was born.
2/ a) is it solely for Underground staff? b) Do Underground staff make up the majority of its members?
A/ The majority of members are Underground employees but this is not a prerequisite of membership. Roughly three quarters of the members work on London Underground, the rest are either friends or related to Underground staff.
3/ What is the make up of the club? (i.e. men, women, children, race etc)
A/ We are quite proud of the fact that women make up about 10% of our membership which tends to tie in with the statistic that Celtic FC has the highest percentage of female season book holders of any club in England or Scotland. Most of our members are either Irish or Scots but as the Celtic family is a broad church & London an ethnically diverse city it is worth pointing out that we have members from many parts of the world including: Iran, Catalonia, Jamaica, Turkey, New Zealand & Port Talbot..!! We even have a sizable contingent from a desolate, barren & almost uninhabitable wasteland known to most of us as Dundee..!!
4/ What do you think about the direction of Celtic FC/PLC on & off the park..??
A/ Like many supporters we are far from happy with the way the club is run at Board level. Obviously our main bone of contention is the lack of investment in the first team. We are continually told that the money simply isn't available to sustain the sort of spending that we the fans feel is required for the manager to build on the success that has been achieved to date. This is difficult to accept when you consider the revenue generated from our involvement in European competition over the last three years. There is no question that the team is in need of improvement & major investment should have come on the back of last season’s double. Unless that cash injection comes very soon then the chance to provide strength in depth will have passed us by & the blame, rightly so, will be laid at the directors’ door. We were also extremely angry that Brian Quinn in the recent Panorama programme did little or nothing to defend the reputation of the Celtic support when the agenda was clearly to portray us as one side of the same bigoted coin. Much like Fergus McCann's Bhoys Against Bigotry initiative from a few years back an opportunity existed to set the record straight & deal with the real issues here. Such as the fact that it is Celtic fans who are far more likely to be the victim of murderous sectarian attacks than the perpetrators. Just ask the families of Mark Scott, or Thomas McFadden. As a result of Quinn's naivety, if that's what it was, the opportunity was squandered. The board is not representative of the support & that can only change when working class supporters are given a chance to express our views at that level. Don't hold your breath..!!
5/ How often do you get up to Celtic Park.
A/ It’s probably fair to say that we have been represented at most games at Paradise this season. Most of our organised trips are to Europe although sadly that was something that was greatly missed in the second half of this season.
6/ What has been your most memorable trips & matches..??
A/ There are quite a few actually. Our first trip as a CSC to Amsterdam for the Champions League qualifier against Ajax was a special one & not just because of the result..!! Seville was another great occasion & would probably feature quite highly in most people’s recollections, the club took about 24 members to that particular game & most were fortunate enough to have tickets. The visit to Turin remains fixed in the minds of those who travelled for the simple reason that their flight was diverted to Genoa & it cost them £180 in taxi fares to get to the Stadio delle Alpi..!! Another memorable event was the game in Basle when one of our members followed the pipe band on to the pitch at half time & proceeded to march behind them with a Bobby Sands scarf held high above his head, well not that high as he's only wee..!! There was also an attempt at piracy on the high seas of the Danube when we went to Budapest & it will remain a mystery to all as to whether one of our members, heavily disguised in a balaclava (no sign of an AK47 anywhere) took part in a 'live stageshow' in Prague after the game in Teplice.
7/ Are you the same London Underground workers that the press talk about as 'holding London to ransom' with strike action?
A/ All those within the CSC who work for LUL are either RMT Representatives, activists or members. We strongly believe in campaigning on the issues that affect employees whether they be privatisation, pay & conditions or pensions etc. If negotiations fail to provide us with an acceptable resolution & we are left with no other option than to call for strike action then so be it. The only other organisation that can bring the same level of chaos to the capital as we do are currently on ceasefire..!!
8/ What do you think of Ken Livingstone?
A/ Many of us would have been supportive of Ken in days gone by, after all he was one of the few people in English Politics during the eighties who was prepared to share a platform with Sinn Fein at that particular time. It is difficult to believe the current Mayor of London is that same man. Firstly he committed the ultimate betrayal of the working class by going back to Labour despite winning his first term as Mayor by standing as an independent against the Labour candidate. Secondly during industrial action taken by the RMT he betrayed us by urging our members to cross their own picket lines, even though he is previously being on record as saying he supported the right of workers to take industrial action. This was an appalling act of hypocrisy when you consider the extraordinary lengths that Bob Crow, General Secretary of the RMT went to, to get him re-elected. Not only did he write to the entire membership in the region urging them to vote for Livingstone as Mayor but he also vetoed strike action which had been due to begin on the morning of the election in order to maximise Livingstone's vote. It would be an accurate to say that we hold the newts he supposedly keeps as pets in higher regard than the man himself.
9/ What about politics, are you a mixed bunch or is there any brand of politics that most members agree on..??
A/ The membership would be united in its belief that the working class needs to be properly represented although party allegiances might vary. However there is acommon bond of opposition to all things 'New Labour'. Come the local & general elections this year many of our members will be campaigning on behalf of the Independent Working Class Association (IWCA). Already numerous fund raising initiatives are underway in order to finance the political campaign. Last year this involved, among other things, a sponsored walk in the footsteps of the International Brigade across the Pyrenees which a number of club members took part in. On the question of Ireland again the majority of members would be very much pro-Good Friday Agreement (GFA) with the exception of maybe a couple of dissident voices..!!
10/ Is your club committed to anti-racism & anti-fascism..??
A/ Given the political nature of the club these are issues that we feel very strongly about & we are opposed to all forms of fascism & racism. There are also quite a few people within our ranks who over the years have been very actively involved in militant Anti Fascist Action. These are also issues that we often have to contend with in our roles as Trade Union Reps & activists. We continue to confront fascism& racism at every opportunity whether it be on the streets in the workplace or as has been the case of late, in the political arena.
11/ We hear that you have a couple of famous (or infamous) honorary members in your club, would you like to enlighten us about them..??
A/ The former 'right honourable' member for Kelvinside George Galloway was an honorary member of our club for one season, 2002/03. This came about when he was an invited speaker at a 'political school' which had been organised by our RMT Regional Council. We presented him with one of our club badges which he could be seen wearing on numerous national news programmes that week when speaking on his opposition to the Iraq war & his libel case against the Daily Telegraph. He also came up trumps with a couple of VIP tickets (including a free bar, Cheers George..!!) for the game at Anfield that season. Our honorary members now are two long standing members of the Republican movement, one of whom is on release under the terms of the GFA & has travelled to a number of European fixtures with us, and the other who remains imprisoned for his commitment to the cause. We are honoured that they agreed to become members of the UCSC.
12/ What are your hopes for the future of the team & the club?
A/ As was pointed out earlier we would hope that the board would release to the manager what we would believe to be a realistic amount of money to invest as he sees fit. The team’s achievements since O'Neill came in have been staggering when taking into account how little financial support he has received from the directors. If this doesn't happen it will be only a matter of time before the manager decides to take his services to a club who are willing to match his ambitions. In terms of the club overall the aspiration has to be to play in an environment which will enable us to realise our obvious potential. The English Premiership is the logical place for that to happen but despite Dermot Desmond's assurances that this will come about we have yet to see credible evidence or even hope that it will be the case.
13/ What are your political hopes for the future..??
A/ a) The RMT members among us will be advocating a return to national ownership of not just London Underground but all thoseother networks & train operating companies that have been privatised over the years. To this end there is a major national march in support of the 'Rail Against Privatisation' (RAP) campaign which starts in Glasgow on April 16th & finishes in London On April 30th. There will be rallies, meetings & events in towns around Britain which feature along the route.
b) The IWCA contingent in the Underground CSC will be hoping to raise the profile of the party yet further in all the constituencies where it intends to field candidates & to build on the success of Lorna Reid's impressive showing in last year’s Mayoral election race here in London & the election of three councillors.
c) In Ireland we demand an end to the demonisation of Sinn Fein & the full implementation of the GFA with immediate affect. We would hope to see the continued rise in Sinn Fein's political mandate & that others will join the list of elected MP's Michele Gildernew, Pat Doherty, Martin McGuinness & Gerry Adams.
14/ There is a malicious rumour doing the rounds that your club’s nickname is the Thespian Lions because you can get more members to an art gallery or a theatre than you can to Celtic Park for games, any truth in this rumour?
A/ The Underground CSC is unashamedly overt in its appreciation of the arts & believe that they should not be the sole preserve of the chattering classes. We are happy to state that we know our Bach from our back four, our Andy Thoms from our Andy Warhols & our Venus de Milos from our Paolo Di Canios. (For all you philistines out there she's the one with no arms, he's the one with the straight arm..!!)
Seriously though we believe this rumour came about due to the fact that we recently took 18 members to see Danny Morrison's play '˜The Wrong Man' which is currently being performed in London. I don't know if there are any plans to take this production on tour but if you get a chance, go see it, its excellent. Now get off our backs..!!
15/ Finally what does the future hold for the Underground CSC..??
A/ Well at present our membership stands at approximately 60, we have 6 season books in the club & many of our members are registered in the World Huddle Club Select scheme. These are all figures we would be hopeful of increasing come season 2005/06. There are also plans afoot to construct a new club website & hopefully our hugely popular newsletter 'Greenpages' will be back in production very soon. If you would like more information about us or are interested in joining the club we can be contacted on 07956 079 012 this is an official club contact number.
The club has also been instrumental in the formation of The Association of London Celtic Supporters Clubs (TALCSC) and our secretary has been elected to the committee of that organisation. The Association will be aiming to give a strong voice to & play a major role in representing Celtic supporters in London & the South East. To date most of the CSC's in London have affiliated.
More info can be had by contacting us via the web address which is http://www.talcsc.com/ Finally, on behalf of the Underground CSC I would just like to say how sorry we are that this particular issue of TAL is to be the last & how grateful we are for the role it has played in the 13 years since its inception. It has without doubt been a political inspiration for many & is responsible for politicizing a whole new generation of Celtic supporters, not just in an Irish Republican sense but also in an anti-racist & anti-fascist context. Let this be a tribute to its effectiveness & testament to its credibility,
Slan agus go raibh mile maith agat.