ITV Champions League commentary not ‘anti-Celtic’

Neil Lennon feels the tension as the draw for the Champions League Group Stage is conducted. Picture: SNS
Neil Lennon feels the tension as the draw for the Champions League Group Stage is conducted. Picture: SNS
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ITV has rejected Neil Lennon’s accusation that its recent Champions League coverage was “anti-Celtic”.

The first leg of the Scottish champions’ play-off against Shakhter Karagandy in Astana was screened live by ITV4, with commentary provided by Jon Champion and Clarke Carlisle. But Lennon claimed on Wednesday night that comments made by the pair during the match – which the Kazakhs won 2-0 – were “disrespectful” to the Parkhead club and its supporters.

He was also unhappy with a post sent out from the official ITV Football Twitter account during last year’s draw for the Champions League group stages which said “bye, bye Celtic” after the Scottish champions were handed matches with Barcelona, Spartak Moscow and Benfica.

However, ITV staff have reviewed the footage of the first-leg encounter with Shakhter and found the commentary to be fair. The employee who posted the offensive tweet was warned about his behaviour. In a statement, a spokesman said: “We strongly reject any suggestion our commentary of Celtic’s first-leg tie against Shakhter Karagandy was in any way ‘anti’ Celtic or disrespectful to the club.

“The coverage fairly reflected a disappointing performance and result by Celtic against a team they were expected to beat. But throughout the game the commentary maintained a clearly expressed respect for Celtic’s stature as a club with a well-established and long-standing pedigree in European football.”

Lennon made his complaint in the post-match press conference that followed his side’s breathless 3-0 win in the Parkhead home leg.

Kris Commons, Georgios Samaras and James Forrest all struck to confirm Celtic’s place in the group stages but the Hoops boss felt his side were undermined by negative coverage in the build-up to the second leg.

Lennon said on Wednesday night: “I watched ITV4 last week when I came back from the game and I was taken aback by the commentary. It was so anti-us, it was incredible really. ”