Football: Mahe blamed for disturbances

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The Independent Online
STEPHANE MAHE was singled out for blame as the Scottish Premier League held Celtic's players responsible for the disturbances at the Old Firm title decider on 2 May.

An SPL Commission of Inquiry has fined Celtic pounds 45,000 for their part in the scenes during and after the crucial Parkhead match, which saw the referee Hugh Dallas struck by a coin and a number of fans invade the field. Rangers won 3-0 to clinch the title.

Mahe's refusal to accept his sending-off after two bookings for dissent was highlighted in the Commission's report, made public yesterday via the official SPL website.

Celtic said last night they have no plans to appeal, but in a statement described their punishment as "excessive, considering the combination of contributing factors that were outwith our control".

The Commission ruled that Celtic refused to heed police advice to emphasise to their players beforehand that their behaviour during the match would have a direct impact on that of the crowd.

Celtic's claim that the trouble was "unconnected" to Mahe's actions was rejected by the Commission, who asserted the player's "protracted and aggressive demonstrations of dissent" made a "material contribution". The report also asserted that a gesture by Dallas to the Rangers midfielder Giovanni van Bronckhorst, tapping him on the back to encourage him to take a free-kick quickly, was misinterpreted by Celtic fans as a sign of bias.

The Commission added: "It is difficult to believe that such a gesture would have been followed by a hail of missiles had Mahe not previously behaved in the manner he did."

Chief Superintendent Daniel Donnelly of Strathclyde Police told the Commission he had warned Celtic ahead of the game that players' actions could well have a "domino- effect" on supporters.

But the report said: "The Commission was disappointed by the apparent failure to pass on Chief Supt. Donnelly's views to the coaching staff... it was clear from the evidence given his wishes were not carried out by Celtic.

"No advice nor instructions were given as to how any misconduct on the part of Celtic players, whether directed against Rangers players or the referee, might impact on the behaviour of Celtic supporters.

"The Commission considers Celtic's failure to speak to their players... so as to avoid the players unnecessarily provoking misconduct and misbehaviour on the part of Celtic spectators, constituted a failure on the part of Celtic to take all steps to ensure good conduct."

While the Commission accepted that strict action had been taken against Mahe following his dismissal, at which point the French defender apologised for his actions, the report was unrelenting.

It read: "Mahe completely lost the place... It is clear that Mahe's behaviour during the match fell far below what is to be expected of a professional footballer playing in the SPL."

Mahe was the first of three players sent off during the game - Rangers' Rod Wallace and Celtic's Vidar Riseth were the others - while a further seven Celtic players were shown yellow cards. Rangers' fate will be determined by a separate inquiry, for which no date has yet been set.