Kilmarnock striker Kyle Lafferty has been hit with a disciplinary charge from the Scottish FA over the alleged sectarian abuse of a Celtic fan and could face a lengthy ban.
The Northern Ireland forward was filmed in an altercation with a man in a nightclub who asked him for a picture before shouting “up the Celts”. Lafferty allegedly then shouted a sectarian term towards the Celtic supporter as he walked away.
Kilmarnock immediately launched an investigation into the incident, with a club statement saying that they “find all forms of discriminatory behaviour completely unacceptable”. Lafferty returned home from international duty, with the Irish FA saying he had been “withdrawn” from the squad.
The former Rangers and Hearts player had been selected in Ian Baraclough’s squad to face Kosovo and Greece but had missed training on Wednesday and Thursday over a minor back injury.
The Scottish FA’s compliance officer has now reviewed the footage and brought disciplinary charges against the player that could see him serve a lengthy ban if found guilty.
The governing body tightened rules around offensive behaviour earlier this year, with the regulations now stating a minimum suspension of ten games for anyone who is found to have used discriminatory language.
Lafferty’s case will be the first time a Premiership player has been charged under the new rule.
The striker has been charged under Rule 81, which reads: “No recognised football body, club, official, Team Official, other member of Team Staff, player, match official or other person under the jurisdiction of the Scottish FA shall (i) use offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or actions which include(s) a reference, whether express or implied, to any one or more of the following :- ethnic religion, colour, race, nationality, religion or belief, gender, gender reassignment, sexual orientation or disability or (ii) carry out any act of victimisation (as defined in Equality Act 2010) or any act of discrimination by reason of ethnic origin, colour, race, nationality, religion or belief, gender, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, disability, age, pregnancy, maternity, marital status or civil partnership, unless otherwise permitted by law and the rules and regulations of the Scottish FA.”
The striker has also been charged with breaking Rule 77, which deals with acting in the best interests of Scottish football.
A hearing date of October 20 has been set.
Speaking at his pre-match media conference on Thursday before the disciplinary charge was issued, Kilmarnock manager Derek McInnes said that he wanted a speedy resolution to the situation.
He said: “Obviously, as the club stated, we are currently in the midst of our own investigation into the matter and in consultation with the SFA we’re trying to get it resolved as quickly as possible.
“I think you can all appreciate that while the investigation is ongoing I’m not allowed to say anything more than that.
“I think it’s always better with these discipline matters to have clarity as quickly as possible, but I think equally it’s important that everyone does their due diligence and does their investigation.
“We’ve done that, we started that last week, and we just need to see the outcome of that.”
Following the news from the Scottish FA, Kilmarnock announced that they had fined Lafferty and ordered him to do work with anti-sectarianism charity Nil By Mouth.
A club statement read: “Kilmarnock Football Club has concluded its investigation into an alleged comment made by Kyle Lafferty which was circulated across social media via a video recording on Thursday, 22 September.
“The club can confirm that Kyle regrets his actions and acknowledges that he has let down himself, his family, the club and the supporters.
“Kilmarnock Football Club has subsequently taken internal action, including the serving of a substantial fine. The club has also engaged Scotland’s leading anti-sectarian charity, Nil By Mouth, which will work closely with Kyle on a one-to-one basis, in addition to delivering training to our first team squad and academy squad members, to provide education which the charity believes is key to tackling Sectarianism in society.
“Kyle has also committed to supporting the club’s community projects which will see him participating in Nil by Mouth’s educational initiatives, in addition to serving Kilmarnock’s ‘Football for All’ programmes on a weekly basis for the foreseeable future.”