CELTIC interim manager John Kennedy has questioned why five Rangers players are still being allowed to play nearly two months after they broke lockdown restrictions – and called for consistency from both the SFA and the Scottish government in how they deal with Covid-19 rule breaches.

Kennedy has also rubbished the reasons given by his Rangers counterpart Steven Gerrard on Sunday for the Ibrox club appealing against the bans handed out Calvin Bassey, Brian Kinnear, Dapo Mebude, Nathan Patterson and Bongani Zungu for attending an illegal gathering in Glasgow back in February. 

And he has confessed he is unclear why Rangers were able to field Patterson and name Bassey and Zungu on the bench in the Premiership match at Parkhead last month – and are clear to play the trio in the Scottish Cup last 16 game against his side in Govan a week tomorrow.

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The Scottish champions have appealed against the suspensions given to Bassey, Kinnear, Patterson, Mebude and Zungu – they were banned for six games, with two suspended until the end of the season, at a disciplinary hearing last week - for flouting coronavirus regulations and attending a party at a flat in Hyndland.

Gerrard revealed after Rangers’ cup win over Cove Rangers at Ibrox on Sunday that he feels the punishment didn’t take into account the events on the evening the quintet were fined by Police Scotland.

And the former Liverpool and England midfielder also expressed his unhappiness about the impact being ruled out for four games is going to have on the development of teenage right back Patterson going forward.

But Kennedy has rubbished those points and recalled how Celtic had to accept having two of their league games postponed and Boli Bolingoli – who they signed for £3m in 2019 - banned for three games within weeks of the left back flouting protocols back in August.

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“We were addressed very quickly in the situation we were in,” he said. “We’d games postponed and the players were dealt with fairly quickly. I really don’t know what the delay and the hold-up is. 

“It’s not our situation but, looking from the outside in, I don’t understand why there’s such a delay. A player played against us who probably should have been banned. 

“They’ve broken rules. Regardless if you are a talent or you’re not, you’ve still broken the protocols and there’s a punishment that goes with that. Our players are talented. They’ve been punished. It’s the same difference. 

“The SFA probably need to address this themselves and give a bit more clarity to everyone in terms of the hold-up and why it’s taken so long. It’s only my opinion, but it’s something I think should have been dealt with a hell of a lot quicker to remain consistent with all the other decisions that have happened. 

“I’m saying protocols because we tend to use that word, but 100 per cent they were breaking the law. They were dealt with initially. Going back to the consistency, we were dealt with very quickly and were punished harshly and we had to accept that and move on. 

“It wasn’t a good situation and there was a lot of pressure on us because of it as we were then paying catch up. The SFA are the only ones who can come out and clarify why this decision has taken so long and what they are thinking.” 

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Kennedy continued: “Steven’s got his reasons to do that (appeal) and say that (the ban will be damaging for Patterson). But our players are talented. We paid money for them and have high hopes for them.  Look at the Boli Bolingoli situation. Yes, he broke the law and he was harshly punished for it and rightly so. 

“We’re not defending that. But it was a massive setback in terms of his career at Celtic. That’s the punishment for stepping out of line. You can’t do it. It was made very clear to our players that these are the situations that you can’t get involved in. One because you’ll be punished for it. But it also brings extra pressure and scrutiny on the club. 

“Bolingoli was punished and we accepted that was the right thing. These players have been caught breaking the law themselves. The SFA have to address that quickly. We’d to deal with that punishment at the time. It’s consistency that again a lot of people in Scotland will ask for whether it’s with officiating, the SFA disciplinary process our other things. 

“It should be very clear in terms of how you deal with situations like this. And regardless of the player – how talented, how valuable he is – there comes a punishment when you step out of line in these situations. We’ve been dealt with harshly in the past and had to accept it and we have to wait and see what comes Rangers’ way.” 

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Asked if Celtic had approached the SFA for clarification over why there had been such a glaring discrepancy in how their city rivals had been dealt with, Kennedy said: “It’s not our situation to deal with.

“This is only my opinion and I’m not just saying this because it’s Rangers – Aberdeen were dealt with in the same manner as ourselves when their players were involved in their situation.

“There’s obviously been a process in place as to how they deal with these things but, for whatever reason, it seems to have broken down at this point and only they can answer that.”

Patterson came on in the second-half of the Old Firm game at Parkhead on Sunday, March 21, and both Bassey and Zungu were named among the replacements.

The SFA announced yesterday that the appeal hearing for the five Rangers players will be on Tuesday, April 20 – meaning that the first team trio will be free to play in the Scottish Cup last 16 match at Ibrox on Saturday, April 17.

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“Again, that’s a by-product of that and I don’t know why this has taken so long,” said Kennedy.  “It happened eight weeks ago, but I don’t have the answer to that. You’d need to ask the SFA directly.

“I can’t tell them how to do their jobs, but all we can ask for is that these issues are dealt with in the same manner during a pandemic which has been tough for everyone.”

The SPFL agreed to a request from the Scottish government to postpone two Aberdeen and two Celtic games after it emerged their players had breached lockdown restrictions back in August – a punishment that Kennedy felt seriously disrupted the Parkhead club’s season.

“We were then running behind and we had to fit those matches in somewhere else while losing a player who had been important to us,” he said. “We can’t use that as an excuse because (Bolingoli) put us in that position and we had to deal with it and move on.”

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Kennedy feels it is important that both the SFA and Holyrood treat clubs and individuals who flout the rules exactly the same. “We need to make sure that there is consistency across the board,” he said.

“Whether it’s the SFA, the government or whoever it may be these things must be dealt with fairly, no matter who the club is. That’s all we can really say. When it happened to us, we put up our argument, but we accepted the quick decision that was made and we moved on.”

Rangers wrapped up the Premiership last month, but Kennedy pointed out that if Celtic had still been involved in the title race then the inconsistencies in the SFA’s handling of the respective breaches could have caused chaos. 

“It could, potentially,” he said. “If, hypothetically, we were still (in contention) then this could affect that. But the fact is that players have stepped out of line and it’s up to the people in charge to address that as soon as they can.”

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