Celtic face ‘IRA banner’ fine

The  banners Celtic fans displayed during the match against Linfield. Picture: SNS
The banners Celtic fans displayed during the match against Linfield. Picture: SNS
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Celtic have been hit by an 11th Uefa disciplinary charge in the past seven seasons for the conduct of their supporters in the wake of the Champions League qualifier against Linfield on Wednesday night.

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European football’s governing body have opened proceedings against the Scottish champions for an “illicit banner” displayed among the Green Brigade section of their fans during the 4-0 victory.

The announcement of the latest disciplinary proceedings came on the same day Uefa’s Control and Disciplinary Body dealt with the charges issued against Celtic and Linfield following the first leg of their qualifier at Windsor Park last Friday.

The Northern Ireland champions have been fined around £10,000 and ordered to play their next European match with a section of their ground closed following the throwing of objects by some of their fans.

Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths, the target of most of the missiles, has been handed a one-match suspension after being found guilty of “provoking spectators” at the end of the game by tying a Celtic scarf to a goalpost. He will miss the first leg of the Champions League third qualifying round tie against Rosenborg in Glasgow next week. Celtic were also fined around £4,500 for having five players booked at Windsor Park.

The Celtic board of directors will now have greater concerns over the possible implications of the latest infringement of Uefa rules by a section of their fans. The club have racked up a series of fines in the past few years and the number of repeat offences raises the threat of a partial or full ground closure being imposed upon them at some stage.

The alleged “illicit banner” on Wednesday night came under a heading of “Brendan’s Undefeated Army”. It showed an image of a face in paramilitary-style black beret and dark glasses alongside a red warning triangle road sign bearing the words “Rodgers At Work” with a portrait of the Celtic manager within it, in the manner of the “Sniper At Work” sign which was associated with the IRA during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

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Uefa have identified it as another breach of article 16 (2) of their disciplinary regulations which prohibits ‘the use of gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit a provocative message that is not fit for a sports event… of a political, ideological, religious or offensive nature.’ The offence normally incurs a fine of around £15,000.

Celtic last night issued a statement which read: “Any support for a paramilitary or proscribed terrorist organisation has no place at Celtic Park,” said the statement. “The club has been consistent in condemning such conduct on the very few occasions in the past when it has occurred at Celtic Park. It is unfortunate that such a small minority of the crowd at Celtic Park last night behaved in such a way..

“We know that the Celtic support will join us in condemning such behaviour. Events last night have resulted in charges from Uefa in relation to the paramilitary banners and unsafe behaviour in a section of the Celtic support. The club has commenced an inquiry and will take appropriate action.”

Celtic have also been charged with two other breaches of Uefa rules. They have been cited for blocked stairways under article 38 of Uefa’s Safety and Security regulations. This usually carries a fine of around £8,000.

The third charge relates to a “kit infringement” under article 62 (3) of Uefa’s kit regulations which prohibits any display of sponsors’ logos on a team’s warm-up bibs. Celtic can anticipate nothing more than a formal warning for that offence. All three charges will be dealt with by Uefa’s Control and Disciplinary Body on 28 July.

This is the fifth time Celtic have been charged for the display of what Uefa determine to be an illicit banner. They were fined £21,000 for one which read ‘F**k Uefa’ during a match against Udinese in 2011, £42,189 for a depiction of William Wallace and IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands in 2013, £16,000 for a Palestinian flag in 2014 and then £8,600 for Palestinian flags during last season’s Champions League qualifier against Israeli side Hapoel Beer-Sheva.

Celtic have also received several fines for the use of fireworks, most recently a £16,000 rap following last December’s Champions League game at Manchester City which also included a sanction for crowd trouble.

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