It was with a grin on my face that I today read an article by Phil Gordon of the Times regarding Neil Lennon and his “inhumane” treatment at Ibrox on Sunday. Lennon was refused permission to return to the technical area after half time following an altercation with referee Calum Murray. Lennon referred to it as “a joke”. He apparently didn’t swear at Murray, only told him to do his job properly. He rather conveniently forgets the 45 minutes of vitriol he spouted towards Murray and his fourth official, Ian Brines
We were told after the match, by Lennon, that Rangers informed him he couldn’t take his seat in the directors’ box due to concerns for his safety. “That sums up this country”, he told us. It subsequently came to light that it was in fact Celtic’s security consultant who made this recommendation. This brings us back to Phil Gordon’s article which would not have looked out of place in a fanzine or fans’ forum.
Regarding the decision not to sit in the directors’ box, Phil asks us, “What security adviser worth his salt would not have come to the same conclusion?” I’d like to put my cards on the table here: I have consulted on security arrangements for many high profile events, including Her Majesty the Queen’s opening of the Scottish Parliament in 2004. I have advised many of Scotland’s police forces on arrangements for visits by members of the Royal Family and senior politicians, as well as operating in high threat environments in numerous countries around the world. I would like to think this makes me ‘worth my salt’ and grants me a bit of legitimacy in answering Mr Gordon’s question as follows:. In short, and not to put too fine a point on it, I absolutely would not have come to the same conclusion.
Let me explain a bit about how security planning works. The fundamental basis for all plans is the threat assessment. If you get that bit wrong, then every plan you put in place is potentially flawed. The threat assessment is formulated by identifying who the principal is, who is likely to want to cause them harm, where are they going, and where and when are they most vulnerable.
I don’t know who the security adviser used by Celtic was. However, you don’t get to a position like that without having a demonstrable track record of “being worth your salt.” Logically speaking, the Rangers supporters are the people who in this case might want to cause Neil Lennon harm. Within the confines of Ibrox Stadium, Neil Lennon is, without any shadow of a doubt, at his most vulnerable in the dugout area. There he is exposed to potential attackers from all directions, and it is well known exactly where he will be and at what time. He is relying on the security staff stopping any perpetrator.
Following a threat assessment, the dugout area was deemed safe for Neil Lennon. Taking into account the known threat and the resources available to combat that threat, any risk was clearly manageable. If the dugout area is deemed safe, then there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the directors box would also be safe. Straight away the number of people who could potentially attack him is slashed by around 90%.
To get to Neil Lennon, you would have to know beforehand that he was going to be sent from the technical area. You would also have to obtain a seat in the vicinity of the directors’ box. These seats are occupied by season ticket holders and guests of the Club. You would have to climb over fellow supporters, jump over the small barrier surrounding the directors’ box, and climb over those occupying the box. At the same time you would have to rely on no supporter, steward or policeman either stopping you, or removing Neil Lennon from the danger area.
Neil Lennon’s safety was not at risk in the directors’ box, and I don’t believe any security adviser “worth his salt” would have assessed it any other way. You have to ask yourself, then, why Neil Lennon watched the second half from the media room rather than the demonstrably safe environment of the directors’ box? We don’t really know the reason for that. What we do know is that Johan Mjallby appeared to spend almost the entire second half on his mobile phone. Who could he have been talking to? Would he have been talking to his wife or his mother perhaps? Of course, he could have been talking to Neil Lennon, who once dismissed from the technical area doesn't seem to have had his human rights infringed to the level of his signal being blocked in the well-kent blackspot of Ibrox Stadium.
There are many questions regarding this event which remain, and possibly always will remain unanswered. You would expect a journalist to see this and want to dig a bit deeper to get to the story. You would also expect them to report on the events in a professional manner which takes the facts on their own merits. Phil Gordon’s salt shaker clearly lies empty.