Belfast Telegraph

Linfield v Celtic game would jeopardise fans' safety, warns blogger

By Victoria Leonard

A Celtic fan blog is advising supporters not to travel to Belfast for the team's potential match against Linfield on July 11 on safety grounds, describing the game as "a tie to get out of the way without cost to life or limb".

If Linfield beat San Marino side La Fiorita, the Blues and Hoops could meet for the first time in their history in the second qualifying round of the Champions League at Windsor Park on July 11, prompting security concerns.

In an article entitled "Celtic should decline tickets for Belfast," Celtic Quick News (CQN) blogger Paul Brennan warned that "conflict remains part of Belfast's infrastructure".

"It is not possible for Celtic to play against Linfield under normal conditions without jeopardising the welfare of our travelling support," he stated.

"Too many people would be vulnerable in too many places.

"We should decline tickets for the away game and politely inform Linfield they should do likewise - don't think for a second it would be only Linfield fans who would pitch up at Celtic Park for the return game.

"Their presence would be a beacon for all that we don't want to see or listen to for 90 minutes."

While the blogger describes Belfast as a "proper tourist destination," he warns readers over "tensions" in the city during marching season.

"One phrase you will have heard all your life about Belfast in July is 'tensions run high,'" he continued.

"Communities spend months preparing enormous bonfires, while ancient observances are carried out.

"Belfast has so much to teach Glasgow, from tourism, to reconciliation, but conflict remains part of its infrastructure. This is a tie to get out of the way without cost to life or limb."

Mr Brennan subsequently told the Belfast Telegraph that "football games are often combustible occasions."

"I think we should respect the specific nature of Celtic visiting Windsor Park in July, with the prospect of thousands of fans from Scotland making their way to and from the city and the stadium," he added.

"It is easy enough to mitigate potential disorder at the stadium, but it's hard to imagine this being done in every street corner and bar between Windsor Park, the city centre, airports and the ferry."

Several football fans took to social media to voice their incredulity at the potential date of the match, with one describing it as a "powderkeg".

One Celtic fan stated: "Wonder how many people will end up in hospital after this one?"

Another added: "Can you imagine the carnage if they let it go ahead on the 12th?"

One measure which could prevent known football hooligans from travelling to engage in violence at the game is the football banning order (FBO), which is in force both in Scotland and in Northern Ireland.

According to the Scottish government, the recipient of a FBO is prohibited from attending regulated football matches and, unless there are exceptional circumstances, the order must also require the surrender of the person's passport when relevant overseas matches are to be played. The order could ban an offender from every football ground in the UK.

Additional restrictions can also be imposed, such as prohibiting movements in "flashpoint" areas around football grounds on match days.

Anyone who breaches an FBO or commits an offence can be fined and imprisoned for up to six months.

Judges in Northern Ireland can also issue FBOs against individuals involved in activities such as stirring up sectarian or racial hatred and issuing threats of violence.

The PSNI were contacted regarding plans for the security arrangements for the potential match, but no response was available at the time of going to press.

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