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Page last updated at 21:16 GMT, Thursday, 17 March 2011

SFA pursue eight-game ban for Celtic's Neil Lennon

Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist (left) and Celtic manager Neil Lennon

Tempers fray in Old Firm Cup tie

The Scottish Football Association has informed Celtic by letter that its intention was to double manager Neil Lennon's touchline suspension.

Lennon was serving a four-match ban when he picked up a second misconduct charge for an altercation with Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist.

Celtic's interpretation of SFA rules would result in the bans running concurrently from 16 March.

But the SFA says the punishments should run consecutively.

While the SFA concedes that its regulations do not stipulate that managers must serve consecutive bans, it argues that it has been the habit.

However, Celtic are almost certain to challenge that, with Lennon's lawyer saying the SFA "appears to be institutionally dysfunctional".

Prior to the SFA letter being sent to Celtic Park, Paul McBride QC warned that the club would take further action if the SFA tries to impose the bans consecutively.

"I wish the SFA would start to grow up and behave responsibly," he told BBC Scotland.

Celtic chose not to contest Lennon's four-match suspension, citing "the wider interests of the club and Scottish football", following a touchline argument with McCoist.

They did so in the belief that he would serve a total of five games on the sidelines because the new suspension came into force one match into his previous four-match ban.

Celtic's case is based on the rule that a punishment begins 14 days after the offence.

Everyone who is sensible and who can read will see from the rules that ought to run from the 16 March

Paul McBride QC

"The ban will start from 16 March," said McBride. "That started in the Inverness Caley game. And, once that is completed, that is the end of the matter.

"There have been rumours out there, and the SFA won't answer any questions about whether it is an eight-match ban, four plus four, but that's not the case.

"Nothing the SFA do surprise me any more. I thought it was a simple matter to confirm whether it is a four-match ban or an eight-match ban.

"But, as a matter of law, there is no question in my mind at all, it is a four-match ban."

Celtic believe that Lennon should be back in the dugout for their Scottish Cup semi-final with Aberdeen on the weekend of 16/17 April and McBride was clear about what their manager should do that day.

"He should enter the dugout and get on with the game," he said. "If the SFA believe it is an eight-match ban then the referee would go over and presumably attempt to send him to the stand.

"It may be, at that point, Celtic would consider their position about protective action in relation to their manager."

McBride accepts that the situation has become "messy" but believes Celtic have done nothing wrong despite other clubs having in the past accepted consecutive bans.

"I have looked at the SFA rules in some detail," said the QC. "There is provision for players to serve consecutive bans. There is no provision for managers or club officials to serve consecutive bans at all.

"Neil Lennon did not challenge the fact that he should have received some kind of suspension.

"He got a four-match suspension. He didn't appeal that. He accepted his conduct fell below an appropriate standard.

"The only dispute apparently in the minds of the SFA is whether it is consecutive or concurrent.

"Everyone who is sensible and who can read will see from the rules that ought to run from the 16 March."

Lennon has watched Celtic's last two outings from the stand following his dismissal and an excessive misconduct charge for his behaviour during a defeat by Hearts in November.

The sending off incurred an automatic two-match ban, while an extra four games were added for Lennon's heated exchange with match officials.

That six-game penalty was later reduced to four on appeal, with Celtic citing irregularities in the SFA's procedure.

Rangers did submit an appeal against the two-match touchline ban received by McCoist following his touchline altercation with Lennon at the end of the volatile Scottish Cup replay at Celtic Park on 2 March.

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see also
Lennon remarks result in SFA fine
17 Mar 11 |  Celtic
SFA to speed disciplinary system
17 Mar 11 |  Scottish Premier
Rangers will contest McCoist ban
16 Mar 11 |  Rangers
We'll cope with boss ban - Stokes
11 Mar 11 |  Celtic
Old Firm pair receive dugout bans
10 Mar 11 |  Scottish Premier
Celtic's Lawwell defends Lennon
08 Mar 11 |  Celtic
Lennon defuses spat with McCoist
03 Mar 11 |  Celtic
Abuse led to tension - Gers chief
03 Mar 11 |  Rangers
SFA chief slams Old Firm clashes
03 Mar 11 |  Scottish Cups
Lennon-McCoist rift 'will heal'
03 Mar 11 |  Celtic

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