Football: `Work to rule' at Celtic is over

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CELTIC'S FIRST-TEAM squad have agreed to end their "work to rule" with immediate effect, despite accusing the club's managing director, Fergus McCann, of "having no respect" for their achievements.

The players have adopted a stance of non-cooperation with their club and the media following a row over bonus payments in the Champions' League.

Tony Higgins, secretary of the Scottish Professional Footballers' Association, intervened in an attempt to try to find a solution, but the players are bitter at the way they have been treated by the management and say they have dragged their feet over bonuses.

The first-team squad issued a statement following a meeting with Higgins yesterday. It read: "The first-team squad have decided to comply with the terms of their contracts with immediate effect. The players' decision reflects their determination to find a solution to the current dispute with the club by means of discussion.

"Tony Higgins of the players union will meet with the club management to put forward the views of the players and to discuss matters of industrial relations within the club.

"The players have attempted over six months to resolve by discussion with the club various matters including the question of club bonuses for both domestic and European competitions.

"The current dispute has arisen from the failure of the club to resolve these matters and was brought to a head by the recent issue of bonus for the Champions' League."

The players are angered that their bonuses are not on the same scale as those of their Old Firm rivals, Rangers. They also believe there are anomolies in the way the bonus system has been structured by the management.

The statement continued: "For many years the club have compared the players' achievements with those of Glasgow Rangers and assured players that similar success would be rewarded by comparable bonuses. Comparing the bonus on offer with bonuses paid outside Scotland was a departure from the club's previous position.

"The players are concerned that last year's Premier Division championship bonus was not agreed until November 1997 and wish to conclude the arrangements for this season at an earlier stage.

"Bonus payments at the club are not uniform and depend on the terms of individual contracts. This has led to the situation where, of two substitutes who did not play, one received a bonus and the other did not. The players consider themselves to be a squad and anxiously seek uniformity in these matters."

Celtic's first-team squad insist they have not given up their charity work throughout the dispute.

"The players have continued throughout this difficult time to carry out a variety of charity appearances," the statement added. The players themselves decided to donate their bonus of pounds 230,000 to charity."

The champions play Dundee United in the Premier League at Parkhead today.