Celtic manager Neil Lennon demands 'smart solutions' by authorities to get fans back into stadiums and avoid 'extinction' of clubs

“Compromise” needed to save all sports
Celtic manager Neil Lennon fears for future of UK sport if spectators cannot attend events for next six months (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)Celtic manager Neil Lennon fears for future of UK sport if spectators cannot attend events for next six months (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Celtic manager Neil Lennon fears for future of UK sport if spectators cannot attend events for next six months (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has called on governments across the UK to engage with the various football associations on “smart solutions” that allow supporters back into stadiums to prevent clubs being driven to “extinction” throughout the British isles.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnston warned that the latest restrictions announced on Tuesday to deal with the resurgence of Covid-19 cases could be in place for the next six months - which appeared to rule out spectators at sporting events until the spring, at the earliest.

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As he prepared his team for their Europa League qualifier in Riga, Lennon believes it will be the ruination of UK sport if the pandemic leads to behind closed doors sporting occasions for an entire year since the initial shutdown in March.

“We need to find some smart solutions for this. Whether that is football as a sport or all sports,” he said. “This isn’t good for the infrastructure of sport in the UK and the longer it goes on the more difficult it is going to become. I was looking at some head of associations on Tuesday saying there has to be some sort of compromise because, otherwise, clubs are going to be on the brink of extinction and it’s not just Scotland.

“There is £700 million in revenue that could be lost to the [English] Premier League and that filters into the Championship, League One and League Two. I know the Prime Minister is wary of the effect it could have on sport and there has to be some sort of dialogue between the FA, the SPFL and the government to find some compromise as we go forward because, if they are talking six months down the line, that’s no good for anybody, really. Whether it be for football or any sport.

“I don’t know what it will do [to Celtic] from a financial point of view. It won’t help, that’s for sure. I do think there has to be a compromise. I do think it is safer to sit at a safe distance in an open-air venue than go and watch it in a pub or a restaurant.”

Lennon’s immediate concern is negotiating a European tie against Latvian league leaders he says “deserve the utmost respect” through having last season having won at home to Copenhagen - who dumped Celtic from the Europa League last 32 - in a tie they ultimately lost.

Odsonne Edouard will be back to lead the line for the Scottish champions after the 22-year-old Frenchman asked to be excused from Saturday’s 3-2 win at home Livingston because of fatigue.

“He’s trained well the last couple of days and he’s looking forward to playing,” Lennon, who will be without Christopher Jullien because of back spasms. “He’s itching to play. To be fair, all of them are. We have a lot of games and, sometimes, you have to listen to where the player is coming from. He missed a couple of games, came back in and three games in a week might have been too much for him. We made the right decision. We won, he’s fresh and it sets us up nicely for this game.”

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