Celtic has been criticised for suspending the membership of hundreds of fans in its safe standing area.

The Celtic Trust said the club was guilty of “excessive and poorly-targeted sanctions” after suspending the membership rights of 900 fans based in the ‘Green Brigade’ rail seating area for two home games and three away matches.

The sanctions come after the outrage sparked by the paramilitary banner unveiled during Celtic’s match against Northern Irish team Linfield in a Uefa Champions League qualifier last week.

“Whatever one’s view on the wisdom or otherwise of the banners displayed by the Green Brigade at the Linfield game – a decision for which the group has taken full responsibility – the application of such excessive and poorly-targeted sanctions cannot be justified or defended,” said the Celtic Trust, which represents the views of the combined shareholdings of ordinary supporters in Celtic PLC, in a statement.

“This sanction has been applied to children as well as to people who were not in attendance at that game -their ticket not having been activated.

“It has now been extended to incidents at other games which had not been previously raised as problematic.

“It has involved safety issues which were actually caused by the excessive and unwarranted police presence within the section that night.

“Such a scattergun approach by the PLC seems to have the purpose of dividing the support and causing tensions within that section rather than dealing sensibly and proportionately with the kind of difficulties which arise from time to time in any club.”

Last month the Celtic Trust and the Green Brigade issued a joint statement slamming the club’s decision not to take a ticket allocation for the away game at Linfield.

With the game taking place during the ‘marching season’ in Northern Ireland, Celtic feared there could be trouble among the club’s supporters and Linfield’s loyalist fans.

The latest Celtic Trust release went on: “As a Celtic supporters’ organisation, we have the interests of the support as our primary aim, and division is not in any of our interests.

“As the first proposers of the standing section we also have an interest in defending this imaginative and much-admired initiative.

“As a fellow organisation to the Green Brigade, it is not our purpose to agree with every decision they make, and neither would they expect us to, but they are our comrades and will remain so, particularly when they are under attack.

“We call on Celtic PLC to open discussions immediately with the supporters in that section, including representatives of the Green Brigade, in order to resolve this issue in a reasonable and proportionate manner.”

IMAGE: Jon Darch