PETER LAWWELL, the Celtic chief executive, last night apologised to Dundee for conduct from a section of the club's supporters during the Boxing Day match at Dens Park which was dubbed "a throwback to the 1970s".
The Parkhead side's 2-0 victory in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League was marred by trouble in the away end as fans let off fireworks and fought among themselves, with Tayside Police speaking afterwards of a "level of disturbance primarily within the Celtic section of the stadium" and confirming that five supporters, one for the home side Dundee and four following away team Celtic, will be reported to the procurator fiscal for "alleged football-related offences".
"We are very proud that Celtic supporters enjoy such a great reputation and it is therefore extremely disappointing that the behaviour of a small minority has tarnished the good name of the club and our fans in this way," said Lawwell.
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"Clearly, we apologise to Dundee Football Club – we will work with them and look into any incident which is raised and if we can identify any individuals involved, we will obviously take the strongest possible action.
"We have received a number of complaints today from our own supporters about the conduct of this minority – we cannot allow our supporters' enjoyment of our matches to be affected in this way and we will not sit and allow the club's reputation to be damaged," he added. "Our supporters over many years have earned such a fantastic repuation for positively supporting the club, we will not allow this to be taken from them. It is time for all our true supporters who care about Celtic to unite with the club and find a solution to this problem."
Jim Thomson, the Dundee FC operations manager, said that he and his staff had been shocked by the behaviour of an element of the visiting support, and laid some of the blame with the scheduling of the match which kicked off at 7.30pm at the behest of broadcasters ESPN. The fixture was originally envisaged as that of the festive Old Firm match, with Dundee taking the place of "Club 12" on the fixture lists.
"There was widespread drunkenness, and I mean widespread, within the Celtic support," said Thomson. "We were confiscating drink from supporters in the concourse leading to the turnstiles. They were clearly drunk coming in and we had a decision to make on whether we let them in and we decided that we had to let them in because we would have had other consequences if we didn't.
"Once in, they were abusing our turnstile staff, our canteen staff and even fighting among themselves, and I mean serious disorder within the concourse," he added. "It was just not a nice experience. In the 20 years I've been organising games here at Dens Park, I have never seen anything like that – it was a throwback to the 70s that we are all probably ashamed of. There was almost a full-scale riot.
"The away fans had no respect for their surroundings. They were basically doing the toilet where they stood. I had Celtic fans coming up to me in the street to tell me they were 'embarrassed' by their own fans' behaviour and the state they were in. I stopped counting at 40 ejections from the Bob Shankly stand where all the trouble was among the Celtic fans behind the goal. The scheduling of the fixture didn't help. The game should never have kicked off at 7.30pm on Boxing Day – it was a disaster waiting to happen. It gave the fans too much time to get drunk. Everyone knows this time was chosen to fit in with the TV schedule but the atmosphere at the game was frightening. If that had been an Old Firm match do you think it would have been played at that time? I very much doubt it."