Lazio facing punishment over racist anti-Celtic Champions League banners

Lazio supporters show a banner during the Uefa Champions League match against Celtic

Celtic and Lazio are facing punishment from Uefa following ugly scenes in their latest Champions League clash that included the Scottish club’s supporters being taunted with offensive banners.

Home fans at the Stadio Olimpico were filmed throwing flares into the away section and pictures showed one being tossed back, while a huge banner was unfurled mocking Ireland’s Great Famine and signed by ‘Ultras Lazio’, which read: ‘THE FAMINE IS OVER GO HOME F---ING POTATO EATERS.’

Another banner signed by the same group and held up just outside the ground included a sectarian slur banned in Scotland, stating: ‘DID THE F----- B---- TAKE SHOWER TODAY?’

A third displayed by a roadside mocked the Celtic Boys Club paedophile scandal, calling them: ‘CELTIC PEDOPHILE CLUB.’ The club claim the allegations of paedophilia centre around a separate entity rather than Celtic Football Club.

Celtic and Lazio have a history of tensions, with both fined after their fans let off flares prior to a 2019 Europa League match at the Stadio Olimpico.

In October’s Champions League game between the pair at Parkhead, the Scottish club’s own ultras group, the Green Brigade, unfurled a banner that read ‘ANTIFASCIST GLASGOW CELTIC’.

The display also included an upside-down image of the late Benito Mussolini, the fascist former leader of Italy, and the words ‘LAZIO VAFFANCULO’, which translate to ‘F--- Lazio’.

Last week Celtic were fined by Uefa over pro-Palestine displays led by the Green Brigade fan group during their fixture against Atlético Madrid.

Sanctions totalled more than £20,000 as the governing body also took action over fans blocking public passageways and setting off fireworks during the 2-2 draw.

Lazio fans display a sectarian banner during their Champions League game against Celtic
Lazio are likely to be fined by Uefa for the offensive banners displayed at the Stadio Olimpico - Getty Images/Matteo Ciambelli

Celtic, who have banned the Green Brigade, have been stressing for weeks that “political messages and banners” are not welcome after “Free Palestine” and “Victory to the resistance” flags were held aloft.

Ahead of kick-off, the Green Brigade handed out thousands of flags, which were then waved around Celtic Park for the fixture against Atlético.

A Uefa sanctions announcement confirmed Celtic had been fined 8,000 euros for “blocking of public passageways”, 3,500 euros for “lighting of fireworks” and 17,500 euros for “provocative message of an offensive nature”.

Celtic executives knew immediately after the show of flags that the club would be at risk of being fined. When the Green Brigade showed support for Palestine in a tie against the Israeli club Hapoel Be’er Sheva in 2016, the club were hit by Uefa for the display of “illicit banners”.

On that occasion, the wider fanbase swung behind a brigade fundraising campaign to support charities in Palestine, with more than £175,000 raised to fund the formation of Aida Celtic, a football team in Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem.

The ultras group traditionally organises a tifo – a choreographed display involving a large banner or image – but recently Palestine flags have been waved instead.

Celtic’s away leg in Madrid also prompted at least 10 Palestine flags to be held up once again as the club were thumped 6-0. In recent months, Uefa has also fined the club twice for a pyrotechnic display in Feyenoord and an “anti-fascist” banner that contained “offensive” language towards Lazio in Italian.

An email from the club was recently sent to members of the group citing “unacceptable conduct”, adding the “safety of all supporters at Celtic Park is of paramount importance and amid these serious safety concerns, this immediate action whilst regrettable, is considered by the club to be necessary”.

However, the 267 suspended season-ticket holders registered as members of the Green Brigade warned of a “day of action” if a dispute with the club was not “satisfactorily resolved”.