Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has insisted his players cannot be held accountable for crowd disorder at the last Old Firm match.
Details of an internal police review into incidents at Celtic Park on 2 September blamed a lap of honour by the home team after their 1-0 victory for a surge forward from Rangers supporters which impacted on wheelchair users in the section of the ground allocated to away fans.
A crackdown on future post-match celebrations by players at Old Firm fixtures has been recommended, with a memo from a police superintendent stating: “I am firmly of the view that there is a clear link between the actions of the Celtic players (which immediately inflamed an already delicate situation) and subsequent response of the Rangers fans.”
But Rodgers has defended the right of his team to acclaim the support after a match and suggested heightened tension surrounding the Old Firm showdown has been created by Rangers’ decision to cut the allocation for away fans, an action reciprocated by Celtic.
“I don’t think you can blame the players on the field if you have supporters that are trying to get over disabled supporters,” said Rodgers.
“That’s not the fault of the players on the pitch. There’s a responsibility to come and behave. Like I’ve always said, give a real staunch support of your team. But every supporter, Celtic, Rangers, whoever - when you come it is a ground, you have to behave.
“Listen, there are enough issues around these games. You just take yourself back to the root of what the problem was. We’ve had a couple of years here when the games have been great. The intensity and the support. Everything. Now there seems to be more issues with it.
“When I first came into Celtic, I said to the players that what was going to be absolutely vital for us as a team is to have this incredible support with us. I made a point with the players that after every game, whether we win, lose or draw, we shall acknowledge the support. From that very first game, the players have always done that.
‘So whether it’s been at Parkhead or Ibrox or away at Inverness or Ross County, whether they’ve won, lost or drawn, we always recognise the incredible support we have and the efforts they are making to come up and down the country and fly in from all across Europe.
“So I think it’s a little unfair if the Celtic players are blamed for (fans of) another team’s behaviour. It’s not necessarily a lap of honour. We always show an appreciation to our support, wherever it is. The players’ behaviour on the pitch is important. But I think, off the field, of course, it’s the responsibility of everyone.”