Glasgow & West Scotland

Top-level summit arranged after Old Firm 'shame game'

A top-level summit is to be held in Scotland next week to discuss serious disorder surrounding Old Firm games.

First Minister Alex Salmond confirmed the move after an ill-tempered Scottish Cup replay at Celtic Park on Wednesday was described as "shameful".

Three Rangers players were sent off during the tie, which also saw several touch-line and tunnel confrontations and 34 arrests inside the stadium.

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) is to investigate events at the match.

In the run up to the game, the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) - the police officers union - called for a ban on Old Firm games in Glasgow, saying they led to too much violence.

Strathclyde Police - the country's largest force - also warned it would crack down on drink-fuelled violence linked to the fixture after trouble flared in the wake of the previous match.

More than 229 people were arrested in the Strathclyde force area for offences the last time Rangers and Celtic met on 20 February in the league.

At that game 16 people were arrested within the grounds of Celtic Park for alleged offences of a sectarian nature.

Wednesday's game proved to be a heated affair on and off the pitch, with the referee dismissing three Rangers players and issuing a total of 13 yellow cards.

Rangers' forward, El-Hadji Diouf, who was the last player to be sent off after the final whistle for dissent, was involved in a touch-line spat with the Celtic coaching team in the first half.

Seconds after the final whistle, Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist and Celtic manager Neil Lennon were involved in angry scenes.

Police also made 34 arrests inside the stadium for a variety of sectarian, racial and breach of the peace offences.

Holyrood questions

The fallout from the game prompted Strathclyde Police Chief Constable Stephen House to call Mr Salmond and write to the Scottish government asking for a summit to address disorder issues surrounding the fixture.

Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie also raised the issue during First Minister's Questions at Holyrood.

In his reply, Mr Salmond said a summit would be held next week "to chart a way forward in Old Firm encounters" and that Celtic, Rangers and the SFA had agreed to attend.

He also told MSPs that he was prepared to meet with the other main party leaders to discuss the issues.

Mr Salmond said football fans were "representatives of their clubs" and that players, and especially managers, were in position of trust and "absolutely must behave responsibly".

He noted that both clubs had significant community programmes and had shown mutual solidarity on a number of occasions.

However, the first minister added that "the disgraceful scenes last night cannot be ignored".

Mr Salmond said: "I think the initiative by Strathclyde Police is a welcome one.

'Blighted communities'

"The government will be happy to convene that summit to chart a way forward and to make sure that all parties involved - the government, the SFA and the clubs - are mindful of their obligations and wider role in Scottish society."

In a statement, Strathclyde Police confirmed that Chief Constable House had sought government intervention over disorder issues surrounding the Old Firm fixture.

The statement said: "The chief constable has this morning spoken to the first minister (Alex Salmond) regarding the events that have surrounded the Old Firm games this season.

"There can be no doubt that the levels of drunken violence that have blighted our communities and the number of people who have been arrested due to their sectarian behaviour is simply unacceptable. Something has to be done.

"We have today written to the Scottish government urging them to bring all the parties together as soon as possible so that we can discuss these problems frankly and openly."

The call for action was backed by the SPF, whose chairman Les Gray branded the scenes at Celtic Park as "disgraceful".

He told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "What happens on the pitch is replicated throughout the streets, the pubs and the clubs and the houses within Scotland.

Image caption Rangers player El-Hadji Diouf pictured after throwing his shirt into the crowd at Celtic Park

"The behaviour of all those involved last night was nothing short of disgraceful.

"Something needs to happen, I'm realistic enough to know that they'll probably never stop it but we need to have a serious look at it.

"It may well be that they'll have to look at playing the game behind closed doors for two or three times just to see how it goes. People may say it's a great advert for football, a great advert for Scottish football - that wasn't much of an advert last night."

The SFA has announced that it will conduct its own investigation into the events at Wednesday night's ill-tempered cup replay.

Chief executive Stewart Regan said: "The Scottish FA categorically condemns the inflammatory and irresponsible behaviour throughout last night's Scottish Cup replay between Celtic and Rangers at Celtic Park.

"I was both saddened and deeply embarrassed to witness the scenes that unfolded during what is supposed to be Scottish football's flagship fixture.

"These images were broadcast around the world and shows our game in a poor light. I acknowledge the pressures of expectation on both clubs but last night's behaviour crossed the boundaries of acceptable conduct at a football match."

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