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Celtic escape punishment on sectarian chanting

CELTIC will not be punished by the Scottish Premier League (SPL) after fans chanted pro-IRA songs during a game.

NEIL LENNON: Condemned sectarian chants.
NEIL LENNON: Condemned sectarian chants.

An investigation by the SPL into sectarian singing by a section of the home support against Hibernian at Celtic Park in October concluded that, while some were guilty of unacceptable behaviour, the club took reasonable action against them.

High-ranking police officers, including the divisional police commander, the match commander from the 0-0 draw, the head of Scotland's Football Co-ordination Unit and the club had made submissions to the inquiry.

The SPL found that, although it deemed the songs to be "unacceptable conduct", there was no contravention of its rules.

Celtic await a ruling on Thursday after a separate Uefa inquiry into IRA songs at the Europa League home tie against Rennes last month.

The SPL said yesterday: "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 has been established 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 that any unacceptable conduct is eradicated from Celtic Park is noted and is welcomed."

Uefa have previously 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.

Rangers were last night unavailable for comment on the SPL ruling.

In May, Celtic manager Neil Lennon urged fans to stop pro-IRA chants, and Mr Lawwell made a similar plea three months ago after the club received complaints from their own supporters following a 2-0 defeat by Hearts at Tynecastle.

Mr Lawwell said then: "Chants glorifying the Provisional IRA are totally unacceptable. 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 have our own values and traditions but they do not include these chants. We don't want them at matches and they must stop."

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