Celtic cleared in IRA chant probe


Celtic have been cleared of breaching Scottish Premier League rules after their fans were reported for singing pro-IRA songs.

The SPL launched an investigation after police noted the singing during a goalless draw against Hibernian at Celtic Park on October 29.

But the league today announced their probe had determined that the club had taken all reasonable steps to minimise the risk of such "unacceptable conduct".

The ruling was announced three days before a UEFA hearing on a similar accusation surrounding the club's Europa League home game against Rennes on November 3.

The SPL revealed their match delegate's report included information from the police match commander "regarding unacceptable conduct amongst a small number of Celtic fans in that they chanted and sang in support of the IRA".

The statement added: "Such reports result in an investigation to determine whether any breach of SPL rules by the club in question may have occurred.

"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 that 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 amongst the club, supporters and police to ensure that any unacceptable conduct is eradicated from Celtic Park is noted and is welcomed."

The SPL revealed their investigation had incorporated meetings with several high-ranking police officers, including the divisional commander, the match commander from the fixture concerned, and the head of Scotland's Football Co-ordination Unit.

SPL secretary Iain Blair confirmed Celtic were under investigation when questioned on the topic after the UEFA action became public.

UEFA appear more likely to take sanctions if they uphold claims of "illicit chanting", which were also sparked by police.

UEFA have punished Rangers for "discriminatory" behaviour on three occasions, the latest offences prompting a fine of more than £70,000 and 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.

Lawwell said: "Chants glorifying the Provisional IRA are totally unacceptable.

"One, it is wrong, and it is an embarrassment to the club and an embarrassment to the majority of supporters.

"We have dealt with it at Celtic Park and we will do all we can to make sure it doesn't happen home or away."

After the UEFA action was revealed, Lennon repeated his call.

"We are better than that as a club and we always have been, we just don't need it," he said.

"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."