Peter Lawwell apologises to Dundee after Dens Park disturbance

Tempers flare on the pitch at Dens. Picture: SNS
Tempers flare on the pitch at Dens. Picture: SNS
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DUNDEE will wait to learn the findings of the Scottish Premier League match delegate in attendance at the Boxing Day fixture against Celtic before deciding whether to lodge a complaint about the behaviour of fans in the away end.

Tom Purdie is expected to file his report to the SPL by the end of today and, although it is unlikely to contain the emotive sentiments of one Dundee official yesterday, the Dens Park club expect mention of an unruly element of the Celtic support in the Bob Shankly stand.

Peter Lawwell, the Celtic chief executive, was quick to apologise to Dundee yesterday, after reports of drunkenness in the away stand. Jim Thomson, the Dundee operations manager, described the trouble as being a “throwback to the 1970s”. He added that he had “stopped counting at 40 ejections” from the Celtic end of the ground, where fireworks were also let off.

Lawwell revealed that Celtic supporters had contacted the club to complain about the conduct of a “minority” of their fellow fans at the league match, which the visitors won 2-0.

“We are very proud that Celtic supporters enjoy such a great reputation and it is therefore extremely disappointing that the behaviour of a small minority has tarnished the good name of the club and our fans in this way,” he said.

“Clearly, we apologise to Dundee Football Club – we will work with them and look into any incident which is raised and if we can identify any individuals involved, we will obviously take the strongest possible action.

“We have received a number of complaints today from our own supporters about the conduct of this minority. We cannot allow our supporters’ enjoyment of our matches to be affected in this way and we will not sit and allow the club’s reputation to be damaged. Our supporters over many years have earned such a fantastic reputation for positively supporting the club. We will not allow this to be taken from them. It is time for all our true supporters who care about Celtic to unite with the club and find a solution to this problem.”

Tayside Police confirmed that five spectators – one at the home end and four fans in the Celtic section – have been reported to the procurator ­fiscal for “football-related offences”. A force spokeswoman said: “There was a level of disturbance at the match, primarily within the Celtic section of the stadium.

“Five people are to be ­reported to the procurator fiscal for alleged football-related ­offences. Officers responded to the incidents quickly and took ­appropriate action.”

Dundee confirmed that much of yesterday was spent dealing with the aftermath of unruly scenes prior to kick-off and during the game itself. This clean-up operation included “hosing” down the toilet facilities in the away stand.

There is disquiet at the decision to schedule the game, which was shown live on television, for an evening kick-off. With Dundee United also playing at home on Boxing Day against St Johnstone, it was decided to schedule the two matches as far apart as was deemed practical. The match at Tannadice kicked off at midday. The date had been set to see Celtic play Rangers, but events in the summer saw Dundee, or “Club 12” as they were termed when the original fixture list was published, take the place of the liquidated Ibrox club.

“The game should never have kicked off at 7:30pm on Boxing Day,” said Thomson, the Dundee Operations manager, yesterday. “It was a disaster waiting to happen.

“Fortunately, we got through that fixture but only just. It gave the supporters too much time to get drunk. It’s just a joke to play a game at that time on that particular day.

“Everyone knows this time was chosen to fit in with the TV schedule but the atmosphere at the game was frightening. That was meant to be the Celtic v Rangers game as we got Rangers’ place in the SPL. If that had been an Old Firm match, do you think it would have been played at that time? I very much doubt it.”

Thomson described the behaviour of some fans in the away end as the worst he had seen in 20 years spent running games at Dens Park.

“There was almost a full-scale riot,” he said. “The situation was almost unmanageable and I have never seen so many people drunk. Our fans were abused, our stewards were abused and no doubt the police were abused. My staff were genuinely at risk and it was not just a small minority to blame.

“I had female turnstile operators coming to me at half-time visibly shaking. All I could do was try to calm them down because it had come as a great shock to them.

“You could not send a steward in to sort it out as you never know what might have happened.

“I’m not pulling any punches here. I did not feel safe. It was like a throwback to the 1970s. It really was scary.

“The away fans had no respect for their surroundings. They were basically doing the toilet where they stood.

“I had Celtic fans coming up to me to tell me in the street they were ‘embarrassed’ by their own fans’ behaviour and the state they were in. I stopped counting at 40 ejections from the Bob Shankly stand where all the trouble was among the Celtic fans behind the goal.

“They were fighting among themselves, which was frankly astonishing in this day and age.

“The state of the toilets were a disgrace. It took us the whole of Thursday morning to hose them down.

“There were so many drunk people outside that we just had to let them in. If we didn’t, there would have been a riot outside. It’s as simple as that.”