The PSNI is due to deploy extra resources to police tomorrow night’s football match at Windsor Park.
Supt Chris Noble, who was in charge of operations at Saturday’s troubled game against Poland, said additional officers from specialist public order teams would be on the ground before and after the World Cup qualifying clash against Slovenia.
“We have a plan in process for every single match,” he told the Belfast Telegraph. “For example the match just past, against Poland, we put a lot of effort into engaging with local communities. We will be doing that again to get a sense of their fears and their concerns.
“But from a reassurance perspective, even though there is no information that there is going to be any trouble at all, we are going to put on extra resources just so people feel safe and to ensure the match passes off peacefully.”
The security increase comes after Saturday’s serious street disorder during which 11 police officers were injured and nine people arrested.
Inside Windsor Park play had to be stopped after a Swedish assistant referee was struck on the head with a coin. There was some speculation that Northern Ireland could face a massive €50,000 fine or possible match ban over the incident. However IFA bosses were last night hoping to escape with a financial penalty and warning.
It has also emerged that the IFA has imposed a lifetime ban from Windsor Park on the fan who threw the coin.
IFA president Raymond Kennedy said: “I would imagine that we would be fined somewhere in the region of €15,000. I think FIFA, who make the decision, will take into account that this was a one-off incident. We have been playing internationals at Windsor for ages, at 7.45pm and at 3pm and there has never been any trouble. I hope that FIFA will look at this with a certain degree of leniency. We have never had a match official |interfered with at Windsor Park and we have been playing international games there since the 1880s.
“I would appeal for people to |realise that when you throw something onto the pitch and strike a match official that causes a lot of trouble for us and costs us a lot of money that could be used for other things.”
Community tensions, particularly in the loyalist Village area, were continuing to simmer last night following the football violence and a spate of retaliation |attacks on Polish residents.
Supt Noble urged locals to distinguish between the hard core Polish hooligans “hell-bent” on causing trouble and Polish |nationals who live and work in the Belfast community.
“I think it is important to stress that there were a hard core of fans who had come in from outside the country who claimed to be Poland supporters, who didn’t have match tickets and were intent on causing trouble. Ironically they have caused trouble, not only to the police and the local community, but also to that element of local community of Polish nationals who make up a key part of neighbourhoods in parts of Belfast.
“There are indications that they came up by coach or train, probably from Dublin. There are very clear indications that there were organised, significant numbers and in no way are they part of the fabric of the Polish community that exists in that part of Belfast.
“I think the mood is very tense, relating first of all to the football match, and people who perceive there have been attacks on their particular community. A key message to minority groups who live in the Village area is ‘we will protect you.’ There will be an |increased police presence in that area and we will be very robust against people who are attacking the most vulnerable elements within our society.”