Belfast Telegraph

Celtic charged by Uefa over 'IRA' banner at Blues match

By Cate McCurry

An investigation is under way into a paramilitary-style banner unveiled by Celtic supporters during their Champions League qualifier against Linfield on Wednesday night.

The banner showed an image of a person dressed in a paramilitary-style uniform of beret, dark glasses and military jumper with an Easter lily badge.

The badge is a well-known republican symbol commemorating the 1916 Easter Rising.

The banner was held up by fans next to another depicting Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers with the slogan 'Rodgers at work' - a play on pro-IRA 'Sniper at work' signs which used to be commonplace in republican areas.

It comes after the first-leg match in Belfast was marred by incidents including Linfield fans throwing objects and invading the pitch and Celtic's Leigh Griffiths allegedly provoking spectators.

Following Wednesday night's game the Glasgow giants have been hit with three charges by Uefa, including one relating to an illicit banner.

The other charges relate to a kit infringement and the blocking of stairways in the stadium.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell called for Celtic and Uefa to take decisive action.

He said: "Once again a small section of Celtic supporters were engaged in the glorification of terrorism and deliberately provocative behaviour.

"The display of a banner depicting an IRA terrorist and another equating their manager Brendan Rodgers to an IRA sniper cannot be excused. I am sure Brendan Rodgers would not wish to be associated with this behaviour."

Speaking after the game, Mr Rodgers said he hadn't been aware of the banners.

He told journalists that he had been focusing on the match and when asked if he had seen the banners, he said: "I didn't, no. Fortunately, I'm just one of these guys that just concentrates on football."

The banners were displayed ny the Green Brigade, the club's controversial 'ultras'.

Celtic issued a statement saying: "Any support for a paramilitary or proscribed terrorist organisation has no place at Celtic Park. The club has been consistent in condemning such conduct on the very few occasions in the past when it has occurred at Celtic Park. It is unfortunate that such a small minority of the crowd at Celtic Park behaved in such a way."

It is not the first time the club has been fined for breaking the rules. Last year the Parkhead side had to pay out €10,000 (£8,960) after Palestinian flags were displayed in a match against Israeli club Hapoel Beer-Sheva.

Celtic were previously fined €50,000 (£42,000) in 2013 after the same group of supporters displayed a banner depicting IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands and 'Braveheart' William Wallace.

UUP MLA Andy Allen said: "The Scottish FA and Uefa must take action and Celtic needs to root these people out. Terrorist displays have no place in any football ground and Celtic should not tolerate this type of behaviour.

"Decent Celtic fans will be absolutely sickened and appalled by these incidents."

The case will be dealt with by the Uefa control, ethics and disciplinary body next Friday (July 28).

Meanwhile, Linfield have been given a €10,000 (£8,960) fine after a bottle of Buckfast, among other objects, were thrown at Celtic striker Griffiths during the first leg tie at Windsor Park.

Uefa has also ordered the partial closure of Windsor Park for one European game, specifically the South Stand lower section from where the missiles emanated.

A fan in this section ran on to the pitch at the end of the game before being apprehended by police.

Griffiths has also been punished, receiving a one match ban.

He was charged with provoking spectators for tying a Celtic scarf to a goalpost following his side's 2-0 victory on July 14.

Celtic were fined €4,500 (£4,037) for the offence.

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