Saturday 3 December 2016

Lennon: Time to act on sectarianism

Gavin McCafferty

Published 15/04/2011 | 15:48

Celtic manager Neil Lennon believes it might take a "heavy-handed" approach to tackle sectarianism in Scottish football.

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Rangers face such measures after being warned they could play European games behind closed doors as they fight two UEFA disciplinary cases over alleged sectarian singing at their Europa League games against PSV Eindhoven.

Lennon feels such a threat could help tackle the problem in the long run, but he doubts whether the country will ever be free of the blight of religious bigotry.

The former Celtic captain, who ended his Northern Ireland career following threats, believes Rangers and his own club "do as much as they can to stamp it out".

But he added: "It's been going on for quite a while. I've been here for 10 years, when I played there was quite a lot of it.

"(Former Celtic manager) Martin O'Neill made a stance against it in 2005 and got shot down by a lot of people in the media. In 2011 it's still ongoing.

"It's taken maybe an intervention from UEFA for people to come out and condemn it from all quarters. That might be a good thing in the long run."

Lennon claimed he could now shrug off any sectarian abuse but wants others to tackle it more fervently.

"I'm a football manager and I love football, some of the things that get said to you are distasteful," he said.

"I'm pretty much immune to it now. I'm not saying it's right, it's not, it's wrong.

"But unless people really take a heavy-handed approach to it, it's going to continue."

However, he fears the issue is too ingrained in Scottish culture to disappear despite any short-term success.

"It might last for a short time and it might rear its ugly head again at another stage," Lennon said.

"It's a social issue as well. It's maybe not just for football authorities to deal with, it's maybe for politicians to deal with.

"It starts in the home and it's obviously passed down from generation to generation.

"You would like to think in 10-15 years we would be free of all this but I'm 10 years down the line and we're still talking about it."

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