Celtic lose Aleksandar Tonev racism ban appeal

Aleksandar Tonev in action against Partick Thistle. The player lost his appeal against a seven-match ban. Picture: SNS
Aleksandar Tonev in action against Partick Thistle. The player lost his appeal against a seven-match ban. Picture: SNS
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ALEKSANDAR Tonev was branded an unreliable witness yesterday as Celtic’s appeal against the Bulgarian winger’s seven-match ban for racially abusing Aberdeen’s Shay Logan was thrown out by a tribunal.

Celtic said they will be “approaching the Scottish FA to seek to address” the decision to uphold the suspension.

The three-person appeal tribunal, chaired by Lord Bonomy, upheld the original judgment of the judicial panel that, not just “on the balance of probabilities” but using “common sense” in the absence of any witnesses or independent evidence, Tonev called Logan “a black c***” in a game between the clubs at Celtic Park in September.

The published report of the appeal body’s findings makes grim reading for the Bulgarian on loan from Aston Villa. The tribunal found no issues with the panel’s determinations. It emerged that these amounted to them being “unable to accept him [Tonev] as either credible or reliable”, whose evidence was given “in a guarded and hesitant manner” and whose “understanding of the language… used was particularly unsatisfactory”. In contrast to Logan being described as “impressive” and a “reliable” witness, the panel considered that Tonev supplied “an inherently improbable account”.

The latest appeal represents the end of the line for Celtic within the SFA’s disciplinary processes but the club released a statement on their website in which they maintained this would not be their final action on the case.

However, although it has been suggested they could take their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland, the club made no reference to such recourse in stating they would seek further dialogue with the governing body. They did, though, choose to stress that they were not accusing Logan of “any false allegations” with the basis of their case that the full-back misheard Tonev.

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“Celtic Football Club is extremely disappointed by the outcome of the Scottish FA’s Appeal Tribunal. We do not consider that any player should be found guilty of such a grave offence on the basis of the evidence presented in this case. Celtic Football Club will be approaching the Scottish FA to seek to address this issue.

“We would like to make it clear that at no stage was it ever suggested that Shay Logan had made any false allegations. However, Aleksandar Tonev’s position consistently has been that he did not say the words that were alleged to have been said and that he is not a racist. Celtic Football Club has enjoyed an excellent relationship with

Aberdeen Football Club and this, of course, will continue.

“As we have said many times before, racism has no place in football and as a club which has been open to all ever since its formation in 1888, Celtic abhors racism of any kind. Clearly, Aleksandar continues to have our full support.”

Last night Logan tweeted: “Do the CRIME serve the TIME... Off ya pop geezer... #KickRacismOutOfFootball”

Tonev’s parent club Aston Villa said in a statement: “The position of the club remains that racism or any other form of discrimination is abhorrent and has no place in football.

“While it is not and has never been suggested that Shay Logan made any false allegations, Aleksandar Tonev is adamant he did not say the words which have been alleged and he maintains that he is not a racist.

“Celtic have made clear they will be approaching the Scottish Football Association to seek to address outstanding issues in this case and we will make no further comment while the process remains ongoing.”

On a wretched day for Celtic, hours before the rejection of their Tonev appeal, it emerged that Uefa had opened disciplinary proceedings over “crowd disturbances” in the Maksimir Stadium during last Thursday’s Europa League encounter with Dinamo Zagreb.

A flare was let off during the 4-3 defeat, and an altercation followed with police who stepped in to remove the flare. It is likely that, at a Uefa hearing over the matter on 19 February, Celtic will be hit with their fifth fine in three years. However, as serial offenders, every contravention of the European governing body’s regulation could move Celtic closer to being handed with a ban on their supporters travelling or a partial closure of their ground for a future continental confrontation.

Celtic manager Ronny Deila admitted that if supporters “continue doing the same mistakes you will get consequences” but claimed the miscreants were a tiny minority.

“I think it is very sad if this is the consequences because 99 per cent are very good supporters, with a very good reputation and that one per cent we have to stop,” he said. “If now that [partial closure of the stadium] could be the end product and that is not good for the club or Scottish football.

“Hopefully now it is nothing big and we can stop this right now. It’s very hard for the club to control. That’s the responsibility of the supporters and the supporters’ clubs. We need to be finished with it and concentrate on football.

“It’s about values and how we want other nations and teams and people to look at Celtic. It’s been fantastic for so many years and 99.9 per cent is good now as well. That’s one of the biggest things about Celtic – the supporters – and we have to keep up that reputation.” Yet, the reputation of Celtic supporters is fast becoming of a group that find it impossible to live within Uefa’s rules. In 2013 they were handed a £42,000 fine for an “illicit” banner display by the club’s supporter faction the Green Brigade comparing WIlliam Wallace to Bobby Sands.

A year earlier the club were ordered to pay £4,221 after fireworks were let off during their Champions League qualifier with Cliftonville. In the 2011-12 season, the Europa League delivered financial sanctions, firstly, in the form of a £13,000 fine for IRA chants at a home game in Rennes, and then when a “f*** Uefa” banner waved as flares were lighted during an away game with Udinese led to the club being penalised in the form of a £21,000 fine.

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