AN UNSAVOURY footnote was last night added to Celtic’s Champions League defeat to AC Milan and elimination from Europe when it emerged that Uefa has initiated disciplinary proceedings against the club over an “illicit banner”.
Celtic now face a fine over a fans’ display which featured banners of Scottish historical figure William Wallace and IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands along with song lyrics during their 3-0 defeat to Milan – a result which condemned them to bottom spot in Champions League Group H. The banners were displayed in and around the section housed by the Green Brigade group of supporters.
Chief executive Peter Lawwell reacted swiftly and purposefully last night by issuing a strongly-worded statement in which he demanded supporters leave their political views at home.
Lawwell said: “Last night was nothing more than clear disrespect for the club and our supporters. There have now been a number of Uefa charges made against the club during the last three years, relating to behaviour, displays and pyrotechnics – it cannot go on any further.
“Let’s be very clear. Following the actions of a small minority, these charges are made against the club. It is the reputation of Celtic, our great club and our great fans which is damaged, while others carry on indulging in such behaviour.
“Our supporters do not want this any more. We are a non-political organisation, a top football club in fantastic shape, aiming to play its part as a major football club on the European stage. Regardless of the political views people hold, football stadia, whether it is Celtic Park or anywhere else, should not be used to promote these. This is something which all football authorities, including Uefa, have stressed and something well known by all supporters.
“The club don’t want it, our manager and our team don’t want it, our supporters don’t want it and the football authorities don’t want it – it has to stop.
“Celtic is a world-class football club and rightly proud of its wonderful reputation in the game. This is a reputation hard-earned by our supporters over many years. We cannot and will not allow this reputation to be tarnished any further.”
The club added in a statement: “During the last two matches at Celtic Park, banner displays have taken place which have not been approved by Celtic Football Club. These were displays which were in no way football-related and which have no place at Celtic Park.
“With regard to last night’s display, the club made it abundantly clear in advance to the group in question that only football-related displays would be permitted and that any political display would lead to a Uefa charge. We, in turn, received an assurance all displays would be 100 per cent relevant to Celtic.”
Uefa earlier announced its control and disciplinary body would deal with the case on 11 December after confirming proceedings had been opened for “an incident of a non-sporting nature (illicit banner)”.