Neil Doncaster explains why rivals aren't facing UEFA-style punishment for sickening incidents vs Celtic

By John McGinley

April 6, 2022

SPFL Chief Executive Neil Doncaster has insisted a ‘strict liability’ type of punishment for the incidents witnessed on Sunday during the match between Celtic and Rangers wouldn’t prevent similar awful behaviour in the future.

A Celtic staff member was hit on the head with a glass bottle and required urgent medical care, while Joe Hart’s penalty area was showered with broken glass – delaying kick-off of the second half.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Monday that “football authorities and clubs must use their influence to take serious measures to help tackle such misconduct”.

However, the SPFL won’t be stepping in to punish clubs themselves for these incidents, as UEFA might with fines or stand closures. Instead, Doncaster believes the individuals involved should be punished more severely.

Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images

He told The Times: “Strict liability simply does not work, as the repeated fines for specific clubs in UEFA competitions season after season demonstrate very clearly. The answer must be far harsher and targeted punishments for the individuals who perpetrate the crime, including a more regular use of football banning orders and, where necessary, custodial sentences.

“There are two main forms of strict liability which have been proposed and neither of them will work. The first is to punish the home club for any transgressions in their ground, whether it’s by the away fans or home fans. Unfortunately, this will act as an incentive for some away fans to misbehave, knowing the home clubs will suffer the punishment for their actions. It will inevitably result in clubs refusing to sell tickets to away fans, with the obvious detrimental impact on our game.

“The second is to make clubs strictly liable for the behaviour of their fans at away matches and this will simply lead to clubs refusing to sell their fans tickets for other grounds, for fear of being punished if they misbehave.

“The significant investment by clubs in CCTV technology means it’s far easier to spot and act on incidents caused by the tiny minority of fans who misbehave. Clubs, footballing authorities and the overwhelming majority of decent fans abhor the actions of those who engage in criminal acts at games. It’s only by targeting these individuals directly and punishing them to the full extent of the law that we will provide a meaningful and effective deterrent.”

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So, don’t be expecting Rangers to be hauled up or cited by the SPFL on this incident. Strict liability doesn’t exist in Scottish football as it does on the European scene, rightly or wrongly. By the sounds of it, they aren’t planning on changing that any time soon.

Still, an apology or even a statement from the Ibrox club on this matter would have been appreciated. Members of Celtic’s footballing staff were put at serious risk on Sunday, with one requiring stitches for having the temerity to do his job. They should be making a public show of making sure this behaviour is unacceptable.

With a fan also trying to enter the field of play in the wake of our second goal and other missiles chucked at Jota, Sunday went too far in many ways. It’s not good enough, despite the emotion involved in this derby.

In other news, Tuesday night Champions League results were good news for Celtic.