NEIL Doncaster, chief executive of the Scottish Professional Football League, yesterday dodged questions about the possibility of introducing strict liability to Scottish football in the wake of a spate of coin-throwing incidents and disorder at grounds.

Hibernian manager Neil Lennon was struck by a coin at Tynecastle last Wednesday night in a match that also saw Hearts goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal punched by a Hibs supporter, before Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos was also struck as he celebrated his late goal against St Mirren on Saturday.

That has led to calls for a review of the SPFL rulebook, with James Dornan MSP among those to add their voice to a push for greater accountability and punishments for such transgressions being placed onto clubs.

But despite the current frequency of such incidents, Doncaster, speaking at an event held by main Premiership sponsors Ladbrokes to promote responsible gambling, refused to address the issue.

“There is a time and a place for a proper discussion on this sort of issue, but I’m extremely conscious that I don’t want to overshadow this very important issue,” Doncaster said.

“I’m very happy to talk at further length in due course about what change would look like and how we might improve the situation, particularly as there are objects being thrown. I’m very happy to have the conversation at another time.

“It’s extremely disappointing that a number of incidents like that have happened in recent times. Clearly throwing any object, especially coins, has the potential to do real harm.”

Doncaster did elaborate on how the SPFL are looking to help identify coin-throwers among supporters by pushing for an upgrade of CCTV systems across the board.

“Last season we initiated an audit of the CCTV systems in all of the grounds in the Ladbrokes Premiership, and we’ve already seen at least one club invest in upgraded CCTV as a result,” he said.

“In fact, it was that kit that helped identify one of the people that was arrested last week.

“So, we think that CCTV certainly plays an important part in helping to identify this sort of behaviour and the people behind it when it does occur.

“It has no place I the game whatsoever, and we’re very pleased that the clubs have been so receptive to having this audit, and understanding where CCTV can be improved.

“We’re keen to see as much action as possible being taken by clubs and the police to deal with the people who engage in this sort of activity.

“I’m extremely conscious of not taking away from this important issue today, but it’s something I will talk at more length on in due course.”

On the subject of football’s association with gambling, Doncaster defended the fact that the league body and main cup competitions in Scotland are all sponsored by betting companies, despite a refusal from the likes of the FA in England to associate themselves with gambling firms.

“I think the FA are in a wholly different position financially than us north of the border,” he said.

“Integrity is an important part of Scottish football, but equally we have to recognise that the investment partners we have and the Scottish FA have, and working with them on campaigns such as today is important.

“We shouldn’t shy away from the fact that this is helping us make a significant financial investment in Scottish football, and they do that because it’s a great way of talking to large audiences.”

Former Celtic striker John Hartson, himself a reformed problem gambler, also threw his weight behind the campaign to promote a message of responsible gambling and bring attention to the tools in place to help those who feel their betting is getting out of control.

“I hit rock bottom seven years ago,” Hartson said. “For me, this launch is hugely positive, and I’m delighted to be involved in it.

“I want people to do as I say, and not to do as I did. I let my gambling get out of control and it really, really got a grip of me.

“I had a situation where I’d just come out of hospital a few years earlier and I was gambling heavily.

“My wife packed her bags. She said she thought the world of me and loved me but that she couldn’t hang around anymore and watch me go through what I was going through.

“That was rock bottom for me, to think that my wife and kids were leaving me.

“I can only speak of my own experiences and send out a positive message from Ladbrokes.

“As a company it gets a lot of criticism but this is a positive move by them to try and put things in place to help people recognise the signs before they get to a stage where there is no return because they are an addict.”