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Lennon critical of 'rogue element' causing 'atmosphere with an edge'

NEIL Lennon last night blamed a rogue element for changing the Green Brigade's agenda in recent months and leading the controversial fans' group to a point where it had to be banned by Celtic.

Season ticket holders who sit around the Green Brigade of Parkhead will be relocated to other areas of the ground or offered refunds if they are unwilling to move. Picture: SNS
Season ticket holders who sit around the Green Brigade of Parkhead will be relocated to other areas of the ground or offered refunds if they are unwilling to move. Picture: SNS

Lennon has previously expressed his support for aspects of the faction of fans but on the eve of tonight's Champions League encounter in Barcelona he backed the club's decision to break-up the group by dispersing its members around Celtic Park. On Monday, Celtic suspended 128 fans pending investigations into the vandalism and use of smoke bombs and a flare at Motherwell's Fir Park on Friday, with 250 season-ticket holders around section 111 at Parkhead - the Green Brigade's area - told they would be spread around other areas or offered a refund if they were unwilling to relocate.

The Green Brigade's previously positive contribution to the atmosphere at matches had changed of late, said Lennon, to the point that there was a "powderkeg" feel at games. "For some of them, Celtic seem to have become a secondary element when it comes to the football. You don't like to see that. You felt an atmosphere being generated at times that had an edge to it.

"It's very disappointing because they added something spectacular to the stadium at times in terms of atmosphere. But in the last two or three years you've felt a change in the atmosphere. It was something I've not experienced before in my time here. I don't know what the right word would be. It's been a sort of powderkeg almost, in the wrong way. I don't like seeing flares and I don't like seeing smoke bombs. I don't think they [flares and smoke bombs] bring anything to the game and obviously the damage done at Fir Park is not like us."

Previous pleas to the leadership of the Green Brigade by Lennon and Peter Lawwell, the chief executive, fell on deaf ears as the group drew the club into an increasing number of disciplinary issues over banners and chants. There could be further punishment for the club today as Uefa's Control and Disciplinary Body meet to deliberate on a banner of "a non-sporting nature" in last month's AC Milan game at Parkhead, namely a display of banners making a political comparison between IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands and William Wallace. Recent punishments for similar offences have been fines of around £20,000.

As far as the club are concerned, the watershed came at Fir Park. "At times, I am the spokesman for the club and I have been disappointed at some of the antics over the years," admitted Lennon. "They [the Green Brigade] have been symbolic in my time as manager in terms of what they bring to the stadium. It's just the last six to eight months there has been a rogue element in there, or whatever you want to call it. They set a different agenda and influenced other people into following that agenda. It's very disappointing obviously because the majority of

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