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Is A Six Game Touchline Ban For Celtic’s Lennon Excessive?

Today finally saw the disciplinary hearing of Neil Lennon take place at the SFA headquarters in Hampden, a hearing which was put on hold for over a month due to adverse weather. As Lennon made his way to Hampden today to face the powers that be, he could never have imagined the punishment he was about to be met with.

The Celtic boss has received a six match touchline ban for an offence which has been described as “excessive misconduct”. The charge itself, was initially an automatic 2 game touchline ban for being sent to the stand during the game with Hearts, however a further 4 game touchline ban was added to this for Lennon being found guilty of demonstrating “excessive misconduct”. The ban has been met with what could be described as disbelief by Celtic.

Neil Lennon

Having reviewed the video footage of the incidents, it’s clear that Lennon was visibly upset at two key decisions. One being the Joe Ledley sending off for tackle on Hearts player Ian Black, and the second being the penalty his side were denied after an apparent handball by Hearts midfielder, Ryan Stevenson. The Ledley tackle is still open to debate about what other action the ref could have taken, and the handball incident pretty much explains itself on first viewing. With emotions running high during any game of football, should the Celtic boss be punished in this manner, for what could be described as venting his opinion? Yes he was angry, yes he was emotional, but show me a true football man that doesn’t show these very aspects of their character when their team are facing defeat.

Do we now live in a football world where managers are not allowed to voice there opinion on decisions made by referees, whether they may be right or wrong? Would this scenario be different if Lennon had come out after the game stating how the referee had had a great game and spoke of the correct decisions he made, with such approval? The idea that if a manager may disagree with a decision made by the referee, he’s not allowed to share his opinion on the matter in fear of being handed a touchline ban or a fine, is ludicrous. Surely this practice is fundamentally wrong and not allowing managers the right to exercise freedom of speech?

At this time I can also understand the need to maintain respect for referees; we want young refs coming through the system to have the desire to govern the game and make the key decisions week in and week out. So where do you find the balance that allows managers to voice their opinions, and allows the referees to maintain their dignity and command respect?

There is also an underlying issue with regard to the punishment handed out to Lennon. Was this actually punishment for a bigger issue, when Celtic questioned the SFA and refereeing standards in Scotland, in an issue dating back to last November? This is only a theory, and maybe one for the conspiracy theorists, but when the issue of the refereeing standards in Scotland first appeared, it was an issue that only Celtic took any place with. The club were unhappy at certain decisions that had gone against them in games and had written to the SFA on two occasions seeking what they called “clarification”, on the decisions. Would the SFA really hammer Lennon with a ban of this magnitude if the refereeing situation had never reared its ugly head?

The Celtic boss now has seven days to appeal against the decision made by the SFA, an action Celtic Football Club have said today they will support Lennon in doing so.

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