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Old Firm need to put house in order - Henry McLeish

Henry McLeish
McLeish believes the summit called by Alex Salmond is mainly symbolic

Former First Minister Henry McLeish believes Celtic and Rangers have to take more responsibility for last week's controversial Old Firm match.

McLeish was speaking ahead of a summit called by one of his successors to discuss the game at Celtic Park.

"The main point is to ensure that the government can symbolise the issue with a meeting and not go further," McLeish told BBC Radio Scotland's Sportsound.

"The clubs themselves have got to put their own house in order."

McLeish in the last year has produced a two-part report aimed at improving Scottish football at youth development level and at an administrative level.

And he believes current First Minister Alex Salmond's aim in calling a summit is to motivate the Old Firm to address the problems that arose last Wednesday so that the government does not have to.

Three Rangers players were shown red cards during the Scottish Cup tie and there was an angry exchange on the touchline between Celtic manager Neil Lennon and Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist at full-time.

"I think it (the summit) is to symbolise the concern that exists in Scotland about what went on between Rangers and Celtic in the Cup match. The First Minister was phoned by the police so, to be fair to the First Minister, he had to reflect on that and take some action.

Football is a sport, it's about entertainment. It's not a cause. Nobody should be revisiting the battles of centuries ago

Henry McLeish

"He will be concerned about the fact that this is an issue that's beamed worldwide. What happens in Parkhead or Ibrox doesn't stay there; you've got a situation where tax payers are paying a lot of money for policing and we're trying to get more money from the government for investment in youth.

"The other thing is that many, many thousands of parents in Scotland will see their children, who are in the game, looking up to the players as idols.

"There's been a number of draconian suggestions made about playing behind closed doors. Nobody should be in any doubt, these are real options for the future if the clubs themselves don't start to deal with some of the evident problems which everybody could see in that cup match.

"I'd like to think that the clubs themselves would reflect, acknowledge there were problems and start to address some of those issues.

"I don't think it has been hyped up or over-exaggerated. Scotland is concerned about its national game, the government are concerned. Quite frankly, the clubs don't live in a blue or green-and-white vacuum. This is important for Scotland."

Celtic coach Alan Thompson revealed on Friday that Lennon had apologised to the club's board while Rangers manager Walter Smith said he accepted responsibility for the way his players behaved at Celtic Park.

Neil Lennon, Iain Brines, Ally McCoist and Calum Murray
Lennon (far left) and McCoist (second from right) clashed at Celtic Park

"I don't think the response has been adequate," added McLeish. "A lot of people believe that in some instances that players have got too big for the game, there isn't any respect for referees.

"How does a referee deal with a situation when he's got 13 yellow cards to dish out? Does he do it early or does he allow the game to get into anarchy?

"I believe that responsibility, respect, discipline and self-discipline are the core issues and the clubs should look at those and look at the values, the principles, the ethics on which they operate.

"What about respect, what about discipline, especially self-discipline, and what about the clubs from the chairman right through to the youngest player in both teams taking some responsibility for what's happening?

"This is a mature thing to do.

"My plea to Rangers and Celtic is to publicly acknowledge this was a bad night for Scottish football, a bad night for them. They deserve better because they're great clubs with a great future.

"Football is a sport, it's about entertainment. It's not a cause. Nobody should be revisiting the battles of centuries ago.

"It's not good for Scotland to see certain types of crime spike on the night after an Old Firm game, it's not good to see disorder in our streets. These were the things that people thought were behind us but they're now there."



see also
Brown fears loss of state support
05 Mar 11 |  Aberdeen
Bougherra and Diouf facing probe
05 Mar 11 |  Rangers
Celtic boss faces eight-game ban
04 Mar 11 |  Celtic
Gers reaction disappoints Smith
04 Mar 11 |  Rangers
Abuse led to tension - Gers chief
03 Mar 11 |  Rangers
Lennon defuses spat with McCoist
03 Mar 11 |  Celtic
SFA chief slams Old Firm clashes
03 Mar 11 |  Scottish Cups
Rangers fume after fiery Cup tie
02 Mar 11 |  Rangers


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