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Verbal abuse led to tension - Rangers chief Martin Bain

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

Tempers fray in Old Firm Cup tie

Rangers have blamed abuse of their players in a recent home game against Celtic for heightened tension that led to three red cards at Celtic Park.

And chief executive Martin Bain suggested that complaints about refereeing this season had influenced Calum Murray on Wednesday.

Bain said the club welcomed the move to hold a summit with the authorities.

But he added: "Two players were the subject of extreme verbal abuse in the tunnel and the dug-out area at Ibrox".

Bain argues that the events at the Scottish Cup match at Ibrox on 6 February, in which two players were sent off and seven others booked, was the reason for the "increased tension" at Wednesday night's match.

Celtic won the Scottish Cup fifth-round replay 1-0 but the game was marred by a trio of red cards for Rangers' Steven Whittaker, Madjid Bougherra and El Hadji Diouf, 13 yellow cards and angry confrontations between the players and coaching teams, notably Celtic manager Neil Lennon and Rangers assistant boss Ally McCoist.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond announced that a summit involving both clubs, the Scottish Government and the police will be held next week to discuss events surrounding recent Old Firm matches.

Bain's statement on the Rangers website says: "At Rangers we have spent the day looking closely at the events of last night and the widespread comments expressed.

There has been extensive criticism of referees and the SFA this season and we are now questioning the impact of that criticism

Rangers chief executive Martin Bain

"When the First Minister and I spoke today I said we would willingly take part in the summit and welcomed the opportunity to discuss matters surrounding these fixtures 'frankly and openly'.

"At the summit we think it is important there is clarity on the issues we need to address."

The Ibrox chief executive goes on to claim that there was verbal abuse of the Rangers players at that match at Ibrox last month, which ended 2-2.

He adds: "Our management team are highly regarded across the football world for their approach to the game.

"Our assistant manager, who is acutely aware of representing Rangers in the best possible way, became embroiled in a situation last night where he acted in the defence of our players.

"He met Neil Lennon again after the match and is now satisfied the Celtic manager is fully aware of his views.

"The dismissal of three Rangers players and the extraordinary number of bookings we believe is a matter for the Scottish Football Association's disciplinary process.

"There has been extensive criticism of referees and the SFA this season and we are now questioning the impact of that criticism.

"Refereeing Old Firm matches is an extremely difficult task but the number of bookings last night compared with other recent Old Firm fixtures indicates the match was not controlled in the same way."

Stewart Regan, chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, expressed his dismay on Thursday morning that "we had to witness the match official, Calum Murray, being manhandled, while another player who had been dismissed brazenly walked to his own supporters in defiance".

His comments referred to Madjid Bougherra clutching Murray's arm as he showed the Rangers defender his second yellow card, and to El Hadji Diouf, who threw his jersey to the visiting fans despite being sent off after the final whistle.

But Bain has questioned Regan's comments, saying: "We regret that on one hand the SFA Chief Executive today said they had launched an investigation into the whole matter and then in the same statement immediately leapt to conclusions on two of our players.

"On the wider issues raised by the police, we as a club take our social responsibilities very seriously, and the work we do to tackle issues such as anti-social behaviour, sectarianism and racism has been recognised by government, police authorities and football authorities.

"As regards drunken, violent or sectarian behaviour - either at Old Firm matches or in the wider community - we are at one with the police and government. Indeed, we work closely with Celtic through the Old Firm Alliance and other initiatives to tackle sectarianism.

"The issue of drunken behaviour in the wider community is something that all agencies need to work together to address. As a football club we are more than willing to play our part."

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see also
SFA cuts Lennon ban to four games
03 Mar 11 |  Celtic
Chick Young's view
03 Mar 11 |  Scottish Premier
Lennon defuses spat with McCoist
03 Mar 11 |  Celtic
Game was good viewing - Jefferies
03 Mar 11 |  Hearts
SFA chief slams Old Firm clashes
03 Mar 11 |  Scottish Cups
Rangers fume after fiery Cup tie
02 Mar 11 |  Rangers
Celtic 1-0 Rangers
02 Mar 11 |  Scottish Cups
Scottish referees vote to strike
21 Nov 10 |  Scottish Premier

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