Celtic boss Neil Lennon fears interdict to delay season would be ‘so damaging’

Manager has sympathy for Hearts and Partick but wants resolution

Celtic manager Neil Lennon and players Scott Brown and James Forrest with the Premiership trophy. Picture: SNS
Celtic manager Neil Lennon and players Scott Brown and James Forrest with the Premiership trophy. Picture: SNS

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has expressed a degree of sympathy with the decision of Hearts and Partick Thistle to take legal action against the SPFL but is hopeful a compensation deal can be reached with the aggrieved duo which prevents any delay to the 2020-21 season.

An interdict to prevent the scheduled start of the new Premiership campaign on 1 August is among the options in papers lodged at the Court of Session this week by Hearts and Thistle as they challenge their controversial relegations to the Championship and League 1 respectively.

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Lennon believes that would inflict severe damage on every club in Scotland as they attempt to ride the financial storm of Covid-19 and return to action as soon as possible.

“It would be a huge blow for everyone if the season wasn’t able to start on time for legal reasons,” said Lennon.

“We’ve had a long time without football for players, managers, supporters, everyone. It’s been a tumultuous period.

“I don’t know if an interdict to halt the start of the season is feasible. But I’d just hope the SPFL, Hearts and Thistle can come to some sort of agreement, whether it’s compensation or whatever, I don’t know.

“What we can’t have is another delay. It would be so damaging, not just to the top clubs but to all the clubs.

“I can’t speak on behalf of other clubs but I understand the reaction (of Hearts and Thistle) to some degree. Listen, it’s not exclusive to Scotland. Other countries have called leagues. We’ve seen the Dutch association paying out compensation this week to clubs who were absolutely livid with their decisions.

“There’s been legal fights in France, Belgium, while in England Leagues One and Two are not happy. I get it.

“We’ll have to take it a day at a time and see what the outcome is going to be. I just hope everyone can find some sort of peace and resolution.

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“It was never going to be easy and it was always going to be a difficult call to make. I understand the clubs involved want to take legal representation and that’s well within their right.

“For the sake of the game, you hope we can sort it out to get us moving forward rather than looking back. The bitterness doesn’t help anyone.

“We’ve moved to Phase Two out of lockdown now and things are looking more promising from a social as well as a football point of view. You just hope this can be resolved and we can get back playing again.”

While the new Premiership campaign is all but certain to start behind closed doors, Lennon is optimistic supporters will be welcomed back into grounds within a few months.

“I’m pretty confident there will be fans in stadiums before the end of the year and our club is certainly at the forefront of looking at doing so,” he added. “We’re looking at the health and safety, doing the risk assessments and trying to be really positive and purposeful in getting these procedures in place. We want fans back in as soon as possible.

“Football is absolutely huge in terms of what it brings to Scottish society. We just want to make sure we are in the picture and give the government a little gee up here and there.

“I understand their position. This is unprecedented and you have to err on the side of caution. But the club has been working very hard to do things right and we would like to see some light at the end of the tunnel, with a bit of encouragement.

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“You see it in other countries. There’s talk of the French Cup final being played in front of fans next month, and that gives me a lot of encouragement.

“It’s the same seeing fans at rugby games in Australia and New Zealand, matches in Poland, Austria and Croatia featuring supporters already. Down the line, if everything goes well, hopefully we can follow the example of these countries. I watched the English Premier League games this week and they were surreal. Players love playing in the big games because of the atmospheres.

“It was strange switching games and seeing one with the atmosphere pumped in and one without. The one with the noise was definitely better.

“I don’t know how that would go up here, mind you!

“Man City v Arsenal whetted the appetite but these games do look a bit like glorified training games at times. Just to have football back in some form is a real shot in the arm though.

“We’re sitting here a little bit envious but I understand where we are as a country and as a football association. We made the right decisions at the right times for the good of our game.”

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