Belfast Telegraph

Investors bid to bring legendary Belfast Celtic team back to life

By Aaron Tinney

The iconic Belfast Celtic team could be resurrected by an international football investment firm.

A riot during one of the club's matches against rivals Linfield on Boxing Day 1948 signalled its demise after Blues fans invaded the pitch at Windsor Park and battered players.

But investors at Football Event Design (FED) have announced plans to bring back The Grand Old Team as an exhibition match squad.

Sporting advisor Tony Bonnar from the company said it wanted to put money behind a club with historical roots and was looking into the availability of Belfast Celtic's trademark and wants to liaise with the local community.

He added: "There is a business plan there which we would then have to present to our investors if using the Belfast Celtic name is viable.

"I have been in the football industry a long time, but recently it has been mooted as a plan to have an exhibition club. If we were to do that it would be fantastic, especially if we have it linked to a club that had an historic tradition, one that could be raised again."

Mr Bonnar said the Scottish-based FED company had looked at resurrecting defunct Scottish, Belgian and English teams before focusing on Belfast Celtic.

He added: "When we looked at the history of some of those teams it just didn't seem to fit.

"Belfast Celtic have quite a traditional strong fanbase.

"The interesting thing is that they ended their previous term as an exhibition club.

"If they were to be resurrected it would probably be very useful to integrate them back into society and into a community that have kept their name alive.

"We're trying to feel where everybody is sitting at the moment - especially in the local community."

Sean Graham bookmakers, which owned the Belfast Celtic trademark, have confirmed they are asking the FED for "details of their proposal" before considering parting with their rights.

Belfast Celtic played in a famous exhibition tour of North America during the summer of 1949 but never played again.

The club formed in 1891 as Celtic, and was named after Celtic Football Club in Glasgow.

When it was incorporated as a limited company in 1901 the club adopted the name Belfast Celtic.

During its last competitive game on Boxing Day 1948 against Linfield, Belfast Celtic were winning for most of the match. However, the Blues equalised late on. Linfield fans invaded the pitch and attacked Belfast Celtic players, including forward Jimmy Jones who suffered a broken leg and was kicked unconscious, and Robin Lawlor and Kevin McAlinden, who were both seriously injured.

Mr Bonnar said if they get the Belfast Celtic trademark and bring back the team they will draw players from who are out of contract or on loan to mount exhibition matches.

He added: "We can still put together quite a talented team. My partner helped create the partnership between Belgian side Royal Antwerp and Manchester United, which meant that Royal Antwerp could attract young United players on loan, so we have plenty of experience in that realm.

"The really important aspect of this football club is that the local community have managed to keep the name going. It's almost 70 years since it disbanded and others have managed to preserve the history."

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