Boxer dodges punishment after glassing in Celtic anthem fight

Colin McNeil got into a row with William Kelly over alleged sectarian singing
Colin McNeil got into a row with William Kelly over alleged sectarian singing
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A BOXER who won bronze at the Commonwealth Games smashed a glass over a man’s head in a row over a sectarian singing after Fields of Athenry was silenced on a bar’s jukebox.

Colin McNeil threw a pint tumbler at William Kelly, who had complained about the Irish folk song – a favourite of Celtic fans – being silenced.

Kelly needed nine staples for a head injury after the clash, which took place at Fauldhouse Cricket Club in the wake of a Rangers v Celtic match last year.

Livingston Sheriff Court heard the boxer reacted after Kelly, who was previously fined £400 for his role in the incident, threw his own pint glass, which hit the top of the accused’s head.

McNeil, a part-time barman at the club, was yesterday admonished by Sheriff Martin Edington, but told he had been “fortunate” to escape punishment.

As he left court, the boxer said he had shown Kelly “how to throw a tumbler properly”.

The row began after staff at the cricket club switched off the jukebox as it played the song in April last year, a move which upset Celtic fan Kelly. The song remains controversial but it is not classed as sectarian and is actually played by the club before matches.

Julia McLaren, prosecuting, said: “Mr Kelly was still holding his pint glass and he threw it and hit the top of the accused’s head.

“The accused retaliated and threw his own pint glass which hit the complainer’s head and caused injury.

“The complainer was ushered out and was seen to be bleeding. He was taken home but later taken to hospital and treated for a cut to his head.”

She added: “CCTV footage has been reviewed and Mr Kelly does seem to have been the aggressor in the incident and threw his glass first.”

Andy Aitken, defending, said McNeil had asked Kelly to leave for taking part in what he considered “sectarian” singing.

Mr Aitken said: “Mr Kelly was most certainly the aggressor. My client worked part-time as a bartender at the club and, while he was not working that day, he went in to collect his wages.

“I understand there had been some sectarian singing in the club and Mr Kelly had been abusive and aggressive to staff and patrons.

“My client approached him whilst behind the bar and asked him to moderate his language and leave the premises.

“He refused then assaulted my client by hitting him with a glass.”

Sheriff Edington told McNeil: “I’m prepared to accept that you’ve been rather more sinned against than sinner, but I cannot condone your ultimate response.

“You should consider yourself very fortunate and I hope you have learned a lesson from this and you will not behave again as you did a year ago.”

The boxer, known as “Peely” McNeil, won a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in 1998 and featured on TV reality show The Contender alongside Sugar Ray Leonard.

A left-hander, he held the Scottish area and Celtic light middleweight titles at professional level in 2005-6 and now coaches youngsters at Fauldhouse Boxing Club.

Outside court, he said: “I was only up there to get my wages so I could get a Chinese and go home to watch Harry Potter. He hit me over the head with a tumbler, but I showed him how to throw a tumbler properly.”

Folk roots

FIELDS of Athenry is an Irish folk song which laments the 1840s famine and the harsh punishments for food thefts.

Referring to rebellion against the “Famine and the Crown” it is played regularly over the PA at Celtic Park.

Supporters of the Glasgow club insist it is not sectarian, and even though Scottish Government ministers say no “banned list” of songs exists, it is understood singing it in public is not punishable under the new Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill, aimed at tackling bigotry in the sport.