AS the unfortunate error that he made during a discussion in Holyrood last week highlighted, Paul Sweeney is not a football fan.

The Labour MSP for the Glasgow region stated that Arsenal had staged a trophy parade after winning the Premier League down in England this season, not Manchester City.

Yet, he does not need to don a red, white and blue scarf or a green and white jersey on a Saturday, own a season ticket for Ibrox or Parkhead or know the words to Four Lads Had A Dream or The Fields of Athenry, to recognise there is an anomaly in the game in this country which needs to be addressed and rectified.

Celtic and Rangers generate hundreds of millions of pounds for the Scottish economy every year – but they are not celebrated or promoted by the local authorities in the same manner that major football clubs in Liverpool, London are Manchester are.

The stark contrast between how City marked their fourth consecutive title triumph last Sunday and how many Celtic supporters responded to their third successive cinch Premiership win the weekend before that depressed him.

READ MORECeltic directors frustrated by ‘stalemate’ in talks over title party

Manager Pep Guardiola and his players boarded an open top bus at a ticketed viewing area at the National Football Museum at Cathedral Gardens and spent over an hour travelling through Exchange Square and Deansgate to another viewing area at the Hilton Hotel.

The entire event was hosted by presenters Natalie Pike and FG and there were giant screens, stage shows, interviews, musical performances and activities along the two mile route.

Glasgow Times: It was a far cry from what had taken place in the Trongate eight days previously when tens of thousands of Celtic fans responded to a call-to-arms from The Green Brigade ultras group and descended on the area following their game against St Mirren.

The vast majority of those in attendance at the unofficial and unorganised title party enjoyed themselves and behaved.

But flares, smoke bombs and fireworks were set off, property was vandalised, local residents were afraid to leave their homes, businesses were forced to close, fights broke out and videos of the brawls were posted on social media websites. No fewer than 19 arrests were made and four police officers were injured. 

The disorder was strongly condemned by local and national politicians in the days afterwards. Calls have since been made for clubs to be punished with fines, stadium closures and even points deductions in future. The clear up operation cost tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money.

Celtic, who have lifted silverware with greater regularity than a new First Minister is elected in recent years, put on open top bus processions after they had completed the double treble in 2018 and the treble treble in 2019.

However, there appears to a tacit acceptance that the sort of lavish event which City laid on in Manchester on Sunday could never take place in Glasgow due to the intensity and sectarian aspect of the Old Firm rivalry.

Sweeney disagrees. He is adamant that the scenes which have been witnessed in the city centre after the Scottish title has been won every year since Rangers were crowned champions in 2021 could be easily consigned to the past and something that is both positive and lucrative introduced.

READ MORECeltic defender says best to come from 'serial winner' Brendan Rodgers

“These gatherings promote a bad image of Glasgow and create a narrative of thuggery and vandalism,” he said. “There are obviously a lot of people who go along and have a great time and that is fine. But these events inevitably, because they are uncontrolled, give licence for people, particularly younger people, those under the influence of alcohol and those in ultras groups who are maybe looking to have a rammy, to behave badly.

“We know for a fact it is causing the between £30,000 and £100,000 worth of damage, from clean up costs and damage repair costs, every year. I think there is a better way forward with this. Let’s try to develop something practical to deal with it, an organised event.

Glasgow Times: “There is a degree of snobbery there when it comes to Glasgow and the general attitude in Scotland when it comes to football fans. If you are going to treat people like that why are you surprised by their behaviour? There is an element of respect needed and there is an element of treating people with a degree of maturity.

“There needs to be more engagement with the fans’ associations and fans’ clubs as well as the boards of the football clubs to try and pull this together. You could achieve something much better than is currently the case. It could become something for Glasgow, a major event for the city to celebrate, and could attract a lot of tourism.

“Why are we allowing this laissez-faire approach to continue? It is a bit pathetic and a bit sanctimonious to moan about bad behaviour when nothing proactive is being done to try and address it. That is my frustration. We can all wag fingers at folk. We need to do something to build a better proposition.

“It could be around Glasgow Green, it could be about activating the city centre. There is currently a commentary about how the Glasgow hospitality industry and nightlife is suffering. So why don’t we make more of an effort to build what should be one of the biggest events of the year?”

READ MORECeltic defender says best to come from 'serial winner' Brendan Rodgers

Sweeney added: “A Fraser of Allander Institute report back in 2018 showed the impact of Celtic on the Scottish economy. It was about £165m. That has probably grown with inflation. Add in Rangers and you are talking about generating £250m, a quarter of a billion pounds, of economic worth for Scotland.

“That is probably the same impact as a Commonwealth Games on the city every year. We really do underplay that. I do think this is an opportunity for the city to maximise the multiplier effects and the spin offs from that. This is a huge opportunity to harness that.

“If you contrast it with how London looks at Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs, how Liverpool regard Everton and Liverpool and how Manchester look at United and City. They see them as assets, they see them as global brands.

“There is a lot of opportunities to build the brands of Celtic and Rangers in Glasgow and try and turn that narrative into a more positive one. They are conspicuous by their absence in a lot of the city’s branding and messaging.

“That isn’t the case in Manchester. City and United are the two biggest global brands for the city. But that isn’t the case in Glasgow for Celtic and Rangers. That is to do with a lingering embarrassment of sectarianism and I think we need to turn that over.”

Celtic only clinched the Scottish title earlier this month when they beat Kilmarnock at Rugby Park three days before their final Premiership game - but Sweeney is confident that an organised event would be straightforward for the city council to put on in conjunction with the winning club at short notice.  

READ MORERangers to demand six-figure James Bisgrove compensation fee

“There is often uncertainty until quite late in the day about which club is going to be the winner,” he said. “That raises questions about who is going to organise it at short notice. But what we do know is that a Glasgow team has won the league every years since 1985.

“So you can say with a high degree of certainty that it is going to be in Glasgow. A standard operating procedure should be in place to facilitate mass gatherings and events to celebrate whatever team wins the league.

Glasgow Times: “There should be a standard trophy parade route, standard stewarding procedures, standard cordoning procedures to close off certain streets and provide fencing. That would help to provide a planned approach to it.

“I think it would be quite productive to have that flat pack plan in place so they could start developing it because this is now the fourth year of these large gatherings in the city.”

Sweeney continued: “There has been an element of ‘this is our city’ about them. Fans, particularly the ultras groups, try to promote these ideas of territorialism around Glasgow. It might be a way to blunt that, to have a more organised event.

“I don’t know what the ins and outs of financing it would be, but I would imagine it can be self-funding with the right business plan in place. You could sell licences to caterers and bars and the clubs could potentially contribute to a sinking fund which could be used in any given years.

“I am an opposition member of the Scottish parliament. But I am trying to pitch the idea. I would call on the leader of the council to pull that together, rather than just commentating about bad behaviour which is inevitable in the situation.”

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “We’ve spoken to both clubs about organised celebrations in various forms, but we have been clear these come with a set of challenges and do require an event organiser.

“Should any club wish to pursue organised celebrations, at any scale, we would welcome this and work with them to review any plans. Open top bus parades have been part of our discussions and plans are in place should either make a request for such an event.

“There are licensing and legislative requirements around an alternative uses for either stadia, but we have committed to work with the clubs to ensure we can deal with these appropriately.”

Glasgow Times: