Scottish FA slam 'inflammatory' Old Firm derby

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The Independent Online

Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan has condemned "the inflammatory and irresponsible behaviour" in Celtic's 1-0 win over Rangers in last night's Scottish Cup fifth-round replay at Celtic Park, and confirmed an investigation has been launched into all incidents.

Hoops boss Neil Lennon and Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist had to be separated after the game, in which the home side won 1-0 with a Mark Wilson goal.

Ibrox duo Steven Whittaker and Madjid Bougherra were sent off during the match, both for two yellow cards, and after the final whistle team-mate El-Hadji Diouf also picked up a red card for a second booking after approaching referee Calum Murray.

Regan said: "The Scottish FA categorically condemns the inflammatory and irresponsible behaviour throughout last night's Scottish Cup replay between Celtic and Rangers at Celtic Park.

"As Chief Executive of this organisation, I was both saddened and deeply embarrassed to witness the scenes that unfolded during what is supposed to be Scottish football's flagship fixture: these images were broadcast around the world and shows our game in a poor light.

"I acknowledge the pressures of expectation on both clubs but last night's behaviour crossed the boundaries of acceptable conduct at a football match.

"We have already launched an investigation into all incidents that occurred and will do everything in our power to ensure there is no repeat.

"The events at Celtic Park, however, run deeper than the Scottish FA's Disciplinary Procedures.

"The unedifying sight of two of the country's most recognisable and respected coaches engaged in an angry confrontation was not only unsavoury but exacerbated an already incendiary atmosphere inside the stadium and throughout the West of Scotland.

"The clubs have a duty of care to ensure that the image and integrity of the game is upheld at all times.

"This was not adhered to last night. This week, Strathclyde Police reiterated their concerns over the heightening violence and public disorder around Old Firm derbies. It is incumbent on Rangers and Celtic to ensure a far more responsible level of behaviour.

"In an age of austerity and financial hardship, football must try harder than ever in this country to restore its image as the national sport, extolling pride and passion. It fails in this regard.

"Last night's actions - which culminated in three red cards and 13 cautions in total - also re-emphasised the ongoing lack of respect for our match officials."

Lennon and McCoist initially clashed after the Celtic boss had a touchline confrontation with Diouf following Whittaker's dismissal 10 minutes before the interval.

There was a fracas as the players went up the tunnel at half-time but the second half was relatively trouble free until injury time when Bougherra, booked earlier, was sent off after a challenge on Celtic midfielder Kris Commons.

The Rangers defender remonstrated with referee Murray and appeared to grab the official's arm to try to prevent him raising the cards.

After the final whistle Diouf, who had also continued his ongoing feud with Hoops skipper Scott Brown during the game, approached Murray and was shown a second yellow card and a red before making his way over to throw his jersey in to the travelling support.

Regan praised referee Murray for keeping his head among the mayhem.

He said: "It was a source of comfort that at least one person retained his composure amid last night's chaos.

"Only a matter of months after our referees withdrew their labour, we had to witness the match official, Calum Murray, being manhandled, while another player who had been dismissed brazenly walked to his own supporters in defiance.

"It is a tribute to his professionalism that Calum and his team kept calm.

"A degree of faith in Scottish football was lost last night. All parties must work together to help restore it."

It was the fifth meeting between the Glasgow giants this season and they will meet in the Co-operative Insurance Cup final at Hampden on March 20 and in one more Clydesdale Bank Premier League match before the end of the season.

Lennon has already incurred the wrath of the SFA in his first full season as Parkhead boss.

He is up at Hampden tonight to appeal a six-match ban following a touchline bust-up in the 2-0 defeat by Hearts at Tynecastle in November.