Hearts fan who attacked Neil Lennon handed life ban
Friday 13 May 2011
Hearts moved quickly to ban the fan held over an alleged attack on Celtic manager Neil Lennon as the football authorities continued to investigate the breach of security at Tynecastle.
John Wilson, 26, of Edinburgh, was handed a lifetime ban from Tynecastle after appearing at a private hearing in Edinburgh Sheriff Court charged with breach of the peace aggravated by religious prejudice and assault aggravated by religious prejudice. No plea was made and he was remanded in custody.
A Hearts statement read: "While not wanting to prejudge the outcome of the court case, all true Hearts fans will have been disgusted by what they witnessed.
"There is no justification for such actions, which have no place in the game of football, and we have taken the severest action open to set the strongest possible deterrent."
The Scottish Premier League and Hearts opened inquiries immediately after the incident in the visiting team's technical area during Celtic's 3-0 Clydesdale Bank Premier League win.
Hearts released a statement saying the match was placed in "the highest possible category".
It is understood Hearts had more security on duty than at any other match this season, with 220 stewards - an increase of 25% - and double the normal numbers of police officers.
Hearts are continuing to investigate how the alleged assailant entered the ground, but it is believed he is not a season-ticket holder.
The incident happened after Gary Hooper had put Celtic 2-0 ahead after 49 minutes.
An astonishing melee ensued and the intruder was eventually marched up the tunnel by police but that was not the end of the trouble as some fans in the Celtic section of the ground appeared to fight with stewards and police.
SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster confirmed his organisation's investigation would focus on Hearts' security measures, while also suggesting the process will not be rushed.
He told Sky Sports News: "It's vital we give people the space to give us their thoughts, their input and their responses and we can take any action we deem appropriate at that point."
Any possible sanctions facing Hearts could be influenced by a previous breach of security at their stadium almost exactly two years ago, when Hibernian striker Derek Riordan was confronted by supporters on the pitch.
Hearts escaped with a warning after a fan confronted Riordan after he netted a late winner in an Edinburgh derby.
The club later banned two supporters who admitted breach of the peace in court.
The Scottish Football Association are liaising with their colleagues at Hampden over the matter.
SFA chief executive Stewart Regan said in a statement: "I reiterate my condemnation of this blight on the image of Scottish football and expect to see robust plans in place to protect players and officials at all times."
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