Time to act on sectarian problem - Neil Lennon

Celtic boss Neil Lennon believes it might need a "heavy-handed" approach to tackle the problem of sectarianism.

Rangers are facing two Uefa cases over alleged offensive singing and are braced for a heavy penalty.

Lennon thinks the threat of sanctions could help in the long run but doubts whether Scotland will ever be free of the blight of religious bigotry.

"It's a social issue as well," he said. "It's not just for football authorities to deal with."

Rangers are likely to be fined and could be forced to play matches behind closed doors following the disciplinary charges resulting from both legs of their Europa League tie against PSV Eindhoven.

On both occasions, the Scottish champions were reported on the basis of submissions from the FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe) organisation rather than the Uefa match delegate.

Lennon, who ended his Northern Ireland career following threats, believes Rangers and his own club "do as much as they can to stamp it (sectarianism) out".

But he added: "It's been going on for quite a while. I've been here for 10 years, when I played there was quite a lot of it.

"(Former Celtic manager) Martin O'Neill made a stance against it in 2005 and got shot down by a lot of people in the media. In 2011 it's still ongoing.

"It's taken maybe an intervention from Uefa for people to come out and condemn it from all quarters. That might be a good thing in the long run."

Lennon claimed he could now shrug off any sectarian abuse but wants others to tackle it more fervently.

"I'm a football manager and I love football, some of the things that get said to you are distasteful," he added.

"I'm pretty much immune to it now. I'm not saying it's right, it's not, it's wrong.

"But unless people really take a heavy-handed approach to it, it's going to continue."

However, he fears the issue is too ingrained in Scottish culture to disappear despite any short-term success.

"It might last for a short time and it might rear its ugly head again at another stage," Lennon said.

"It starts in the home and it's obviously passed down from generation to generation.

"You would like to think in 10-15 years we would be free of all this but I'm 10 years down the line and we're still talking about it."

Meanwhile, FARE has denied claims made by Rangers of a "deliberate and targeted campaign" against the club by insisting their aim is simply to tackle discrimination in football.

Piara Powar, executive director of the FARE network, said in a statement: "I can confirm that FARE submitted separate observer reports to Uefa following each of Rangers' two Europa League games against Eindhoven.

"The reports were gathered as part of an ongoing monitoring programme undertaken by partners of the network, in this case prompted by concerns at sectarian singing at previous Rangers matches in Europe this season."

Ibrox chief executive Martin Bain was "astounded" by the latest charge and said in a statement last night that the club would defend its position vigorously.

But Powar said: "There is debate in some quarters as to the qualification of the FARE observer at the games.

"I can confirm that he/she has no political, religious or football affiliations that would bring into question their ability to act as a neutral observer.

"The observer is also fully qualified to understand and interpret the behaviour of fans at the two games.

"There are explicit suggestions emanating from Rangers FC of 'a deliberate and targeted campaign against the club'.

"The FARE network is focused only on our core mission of tackling discrimination in football and encouraging social inclusion through the game. We have no axe to grind with any club.

"We are unable to issue any further statements on this matter until after the case has been heard by a Uefa commission later this month."