Celtic await Uefa verdict on pro-IRA fan chants
Club escape action by SPL but European body to decide tomorrow whether to issue punishment
Wednesday 07 December 2011
Celtic have escaped Scottish Premier League action over pro-IRA chanting by their fans – but they could yet be punished for a similar offence by European governing body Uefa this week.
The SPL ruled that Celtic had taken all reasonable action to prevent such "unacceptable conduct", which was reported by police following a goalless draw against Hibernian on 29 October.
The outcome of the investigation was announced days before Uefa's disciplinary body meet tomorrow to discuss accusations of "illicit chanting" during Celtic's home win over Rennes in the Europa League on 3 November.
An SPL statement read: "It is not disputed that a small number of Celtic fans engaged in singing and chanting in support of the IRA. Such behaviour is unacceptable and unwelcome at SPL matches. It is noted that Celtic FC has condemned such activity publicly on many occasions (most recently by chief executive Peter Lawwell and by head coach Neil Lennon). It is important such public condemnation should continue.
"It has been established, through the above investigation, that Celtic FC took all reasonably practicable steps before, during and after the match (in consultation and conjunction with Strathclyde Police) to minimise the likelihood of unacceptable conduct occurring and, where it did occur, to assist in the identification and prosecution of offenders.
"The ongoing work among the club, supporters and police to ensure any unacceptable conduct is eradicated from Celtic Park is noted and welcomed."
SPL secretary Iain Blair only confirmed Celtic were under investigation when questioned on the topic after the Uefa action became public. And the lack of action is consistent with the league's stance that clubs should not be punished for the behaviour of fans if all reasonable measures had been taken to prevent it and deal with it.
But Uefa, whose investigation was also sparked by police reports, has been more willing to punish clubs and national associations in similar instances. The European governing body has fined Rangers for "discriminatory" behaviour on three occasions, the latest offences also prompting a one-match travel ban on supporters. The Ibrox club argued they had done everything possible to halt sectarian singing.
Lennon urged fans to stop pro-IRA chants in May and Lawwell made a similar plea in September after the club were "inundated" with complaints from their own supporters following a 2-0 defeat by Hearts at Tynecastle.
In addition, Lennon said last month: "We are better than that as a club and we always have been. We just don't need it. We are and always have been a club open to all and we do not have issues around sectarianism. We have our own values and traditions but they do not include these chants. We don't want them at matches and they must stop."
Meanwhile, Celtic captain Scott Brown has claimed that extending his contract was never in doubt despite a lengthy delay in finalising the deal. Brown agreed terms with the club several months ago but an impasse over a fee for his agent sparked uncertainty over his future.
Lennon admitted concerns over the delay and Brown was linked with a free transfer to Newcastle at the end of the season. However, Celtic announced on Saturday that the Scotland midfielder had signed the contract, which ties him to the club until at least the summer of 2015. And Brown yesterday insisted such an outcome had never been in doubt. "Not in my mind," he said. "Maybe other people's minds but I knew Celtic was the only club for me.
"I knew it was going to happen eventually. It was up to the club and my agent as well. I don't really take part in that."
Aberdeen manager Craig Brown has accepted responsibility for the club's current plight but insisted winnings ways will return to Pittodrie soon.
The Dons are rooted to the foot of the Premier League, with just three wins all season. "I still think that it's a false position," Brown said. "I don't want to make a fool of myself by making rash predictions – but my prediction is we'll win some games in the forthcoming weeks."
Saturday's 2-0 defeat by Kilmarnock sent Brown's side to the bottom – the position they were in when he took over a year ago. However, Brown pointed out that his side had been ravaged by injuries, suspensions, the sale of two key players, and playing the teams at the top of the table twice.
"It disappoints me, but everyone's emphasising the fact that we're bottom – which is correct," said Brown. "But no one says we've played the top three twice – we're the only team who have done that. No one says we've a game in hand, and if we draw it, we won't be bottom."
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