LEIGH Griffiths faces a minimum two-match suspension from the SFA for mocking Hearts’ financial crisis in the company of Hibs supporters on Sunday.
The Celtic striker was issued with a notice of complaint from SFA Compliance Officer Vincent Lunny yesterday and will have his case heard at Hampden on 24 April.
Griffiths has been charged with an alleged breach of disciplinary rule 86, which covers offences considered to be “not acting in the best interests of association football”.
The Scotland international, who spent two seasons at Hibs on loan from Wolves, joined supporters of the Easter Road club in the Roseburn Bar close to Tynecastle before Sunday’s
Responding to chants of “Sparky, Sparky, give us a song”, boyhood Hibs fan Griffiths stood up and led a chorus of “Hearts are going bust” which was captured on a mobile phone camera and then quickly circulated via social media.
Breaching rule 86, which states anyone under the SFA’s jurisdiction “shall not act in any manner which is improper”, carries a minimum penalty of a two-match suspension, a medium penalty of a four-match suspension or a maximum penalty of an eight-match suspension for a player.
Celtic say they will defend the player, with a spokesman announcing: “Following the incident, the player publicly apologised for his actions. Celtic have fined the player and the club has also apologised to Hearts, an apology which they have accepted.
“Therefore, the club feels there is no need for any further action, and this is something which we will defend.”
Griffiths has previously served suspensions on three separate occasions as a result of notices of complaint issued by the SFA while he was playing for Hibs.
In December 2011, he received a one-match ban for gesturing at Rangers supporters during a 2-0 defeat at Easter Road. The following month, he collected another one-match ban when he gestured at his team’s own fans as Hibs won a Scottish Cup tie at Cowdenbeath. Later in January 2012, Griffiths was banned for two matches after making a one-finger gesture to supporters as Hibs lost 3-2 at home to St Johnstone.
Griffiths has also regularly courted controversy off the pitch, including being charged with an alleged racist tweet in February 2013.
The 23-year-old joined Celtic on the final day of the January transfer window this year in a near £1 million move from Wolves and has made a bright start to his career with the Scottish champions, scoring five goals in his first nine appearances.
Some Celtic supporters were vociferous in their opposition to Griffiths’ signing, expressing their disquiet about his prior conduct. But manager Neil Lennon said at the time: “I don’t think people should judge him on his past. Just judge him on his football ability. It’s up to me to manage all the other stuff that comes with it. I see it as a challenge. I’m quite looking forward to that. He’s not a bad boy, not a bad kid at all.
“Sometimes you prefer them that way, with a wee bit of personality about them. I like the gallus players anyway. He’s certainly got a gallus nature on the pitch, although I don’t think he’s ill-disciplined or anything like that when he plays.
“He knows the responsibilities involved in coming here. He’s just got to mind himself away from the park and we’ll do all we can to help him with that as well.”
Following the derby, and Griffiths’ much-publicised attendance at the game, former Hibs and Hearts midfielder Michael Stewart suggested that the striker needed to be ‘cuter and wiser’ if he wanted to attend matches in the future.