Brendan Rodgers believes Scottish football is suffering reputational damage through what he regards as its failure to apply appropriate sanctions for the type of fouls committed against Celtic captain Scott Brown this season.
According to Rodgers, antagonism towards Brown from opposing players and supporters is driven by “envy of his ability and influence” in leading the Scottish champions.
The Celtic manager remains concerned by the fall-out from the crude and cynically late challenge on Brown from Ross County captain Andrew Davies during last Saturday’s Premiership fixture at Parkhead.
Davies was shown a straight red card for the studs-up lunge into the groin area of Brown which incurs an automatic two-match suspension for violent conduct. The County defender is set to escape any further punishment, however, with no notice of complaint issued against him so far by Scottish FA compliance officer Tony McGlennan under the auspices of excessive misconduct. Earlier this year, Aberdeen striker Sam Cosgrove also received the basic two-match ban for a wild lunge at Brown.
Rodgers insists he is eager to talk up the competitive nature of Scottish football to a wider audience but feels incidents such as those involving his captain recently make it more difficult to portray it in a positive light.
“If you get bad tackles and challenges, some with clear intent, that go unpunished, then it dilutes the quality of the game up here,” said Rodgers.
“My concern is the protection of the players, whether it’s Scott Brown or whoever. They have a right to go on to the field and be protected.
“What we have up here is a great product. Every team you play is super-competitive, they fight and they can make it difficult for you. But if it goes over the mark and crosses the line, it dilutes the standard of your game. I’ve known Andrew Davies since he was a kid and it was probably out of character for him. But it was still a tackle that could really have damaged the career of Scott Brown.
“If the authorities deem that to be violent rather than excessive misconduct, then we have a problem. You want it competitive. But if it goes over that, then it effects the standard. There has to be a point for the authorities to look at it and know that’s not right. That’s the only way you can govern the game – by being really strong on this type of challenge.
“I’ve always tried to be complimentary about Scottish football but also never complacent. If challenges like that come willy-nilly and you see it every week, then it’s not good for the game or for people from outside watching the game. It’s not a good representation of the football in Scotland.”
Rodgers believes Brown fills a “pantomime villain” role in Scottish football, comparing it to how Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez was perceived when he managed him at Liverpool.
“What I’ve found in my time here is that there is a lot of envy towards Scott from all sectors,” added Rodgers. “I see it in certain sectors of media, I see it among players and other managers talking about him. There’s a definite envy of his ability and his influence. He’s a player who should be emulated, not envied. Of course he has a personality that winds people up but I had the same with Luis Suarez at Liverpool. If he plays for you, you love him and adore him. If he doesn’t, you think he’s a pantomime character.”
Celtic look to close in on a seventh successive league title when they host Dundee tonight, with keeper Craig Gordon set to return after being out for two months with a knee injury.