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Saturday 22 September 2018

Rodgers in call to leave politics out of football

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers. Pic: PA
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers. Pic: PA

Brendan Rodgers has called for the Green Brigade to leave politics out of Celtic Park.

The Parkhead club announced they will close the section of their stadium housing the ultras-style fans group for the next two matches after ''serious incidents of unsafe behaviour'' at their previous two home games.

Celtic were hit with UEFA disciplinary charges over an alleged ''illicit banner'' - a paramilitary figure - and ''blocked stairways'' during their Champions League victory over Linfield last Wednesday.

Ahead of the Champions League qualifying clash with Rosenborg at Parkhead tonight (7.45pm) , Rodgers said: "I have always been aware of Celtic's heritage, charitable work and football work.

"That's what it was in 1888 and is to this day. Celtic is not a political arena for any supporters to come into and display any sort of political element."

Rodgers, who confirmed striker Moussa Dembele and defender Eric Sviatchenko were doubts for the first leg against the Norwegian club, added: "I was saddened by what I (have) seen. I want to defend the guys at some time.

"I have been fortunate enough to be around some of the top football clubs in Britain and I can categorically say the atmosphere inside Celtic Park, not just by that section, by the 60,000 supporters is the best you will witness.

"The guys in the corner add the energy and youthfulness which is absolutely amazing.

"The club have worked tirelessly over the years, the first club in Britain to put in a (safe) standing section and 99.9 per cent of the time they along with the rest of the fans give us this incredible support. But the political element is not acceptable.

"There are forums, platform for that outside of football. It is not for inside Celtic Park. It is not what the values are, the ethos is and it is certainly not what I'm about as a manager.

"I have huge admiration for the support they give but my honest feelings is that I'm not with it, I am very much aligned with the thinking of the board and the people that run the club, the people that have to pay the fines. That is my answer to it."

Rodgers stressed the safety aspect of the club's decision.

He said: "I don't think there is a need for it. Some supporters might say there is a political element to football and a basis to tell a story.

"There might be other countries where this ultras factor go beyond football. But the governance here is different and one of the big points for me is the safety element.

"If you are putting flares up in a ground you are open then to things that can happen.

"My message is, stick to football, stick to supporting the team that you love."

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