Fines cost us a new player, says Lennon

Scottish Daily Mail - - Liverpool Fate Hangs In The Balance - By STEPHEN McGOWAN

NEIL LENNON has claimed Celtic could have signed a new player with the £420,000 in fines paid to UEFA for fan mis­be­haviour. Celtic’s Green Bri­gade ul­tras will be banned from Park­head for tonight’s Europa League clash with Rennes as chief ex­ec­u­tive Peter Lawwell told share­hold­ers at the club’s agm yes­ter­day of the need to take vol­un­tary ac­tion to off­set the fear of UEFA clos­ing down a sec­tion of the sta­dium for a fu­ture Euro­pean game. Fined for a third time this sea­son, and the 19th time since

2007, Lawwell re­vealed that penal­ties now ex­ceed €500,000 fol­low­ing the lat­est sanc­tion from the gov­ern­ing body. And he ad­mit­ted that his ‘heart just sinks’ af­ter ev­ery in­ci­dent of py­rotech­nics, abu­sive ban­ners or abu­sive singing. In­sist­ing the row be­tween club and the Green Bri­gade shouldn’t de­tract from the pos­i­tiv­ity around the Premier­ship lead­ers, man­ager Lennon ad­mit­ted the sit­u­a­tion is ‘not ideal’.

‘There are rules and reg­u­la­tions the club has to ad­here to — health and safety and so on,’ he said. ‘We’re all hop­ing this will be a short-term thing. There will be a lit­tle bit of a void there but the play­ers can’t think about that and I don’t want any neg­a­tiv­ity sur­round­ing this game. We’ve had a great cam­paign, we want it to fin­ish strongly and we want the Green Bri­gade back ASAP but in the right man­ner.’ Sup­port­ing Lawwell’s claim that the fines for il­licit py­rotech­nics and ban­ners can’t go on, the Celtic boss ad­mit­ted: ‘It’s fair to say we could have bought a player for that amount of money. It’s 500,000 and it’s all go­ing to UEFA.

‘The club have taken this ac­tion now. We’re hop­ing it will be a de­ter­rent for that sort of behaviour but not for them com­ing into the ground.’ Fac­ing calls at the agm to crack down on the Green Bri­gade af­ter the ul­tras group re­leased a lengthy state­ment de­fend­ing their ac­tions, Lawwell said: ‘We are all proud of the rep­u­ta­tion

our sup­port­ers have around the world as a club, and I’m sure the sup­port­ers are as well. ‘Un­for­tu­nately, there is a small mi­nor­ity that we have at the mo­ment who are a chal­lenge in terms of safety in the sta­dium, and also in terms of pro­tect­ing the rep­u­ta­tion of our club. ‘Safety is ev­ery­thing here. We built the stand­ing sec­tion for safety and we have to keep our peo­ple safe. We also have to pro­tect our rep­u­ta­tion.

‘Over there, for the vast ma­jor­ity of the time, it is colour, en­ergy, at­mos­phere, youth and it is fan­tas­tic. There are times, though, when a small mi­nor­ity let us down. ‘The con­cern­ing thing for us is that they don’t seem to be­lieve they are do­ing any­thing wrong. ‘So, in terms of over­crowd­ing, py­rotech­nics, abu­sive ban­ners, abu­sive singing, al­co­hol in the sta­dium, th­ese are things which can­not go on. ‘Those things are against crowd reg­u­la­tions and against the rules of the com­pe­ti­tion. We have to keep to the rules of the com­pe­ti­tion.

‘Un­for­tu­nately, we’ve had to take the step of clos­ing the first 14 rows in the stand­ing sec­tion. The rep­u­ta­tional thing is im­por­tant for me. You see a ban­ner, or you hear a song and your heart just sinks. Be­cause that’s not who we are. ‘It gives our en­e­mies the op­por­tu­nity to class us as the same as other clubs, and por­tray us as two sides of the same coin, when we are not. ‘Over the years, in terms of UEFA, we’ve ac­tu­ally been fined over half a mil­lion Eu­ros now, and that can’t go on. So, we’ve had to take ac­tion in or­der to pre­vent fur­ther pos­si­ble re­stric­tive ac­tion from UEFA.’ Lawwell’s pay and bonuses of £3.55m also at­tracted crit­i­cism from one share­holder, but chair­man Ian Bankier and Lennon leapt to his de­fence.

‘I’ve been in foot­ball for a long time as a player, coach and man­ager,’ said Lennon. ‘Peter is the best and some­times you have to pay for the best. ‘He makes un­pop­u­lar de­ci­sions with sup­port­ers at times and with man­agers at times, but he does it for the best for the club, whether it be in the present time or the fu­ture. ‘I echo what the chair­man said in that we are lucky to have him.’

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