Belfast Telegraph

Malone residents oppose homeless Ardoyne team moving in

By Ivan Little

People living in the Malone Road area of Belfast have cried foul over an ambitious bid by a junior football club from nationalist Ardoyne to play their games in leafy BT9.

The residents have urged Belfast City Council to show homeless Crumlin Star the red card over its goal to turn playing fields at Strangford Avenue, off Balmoral Avenue, into a new home ground.

SDLP councillor Donal Lyons, who's married to South Belfast MLA Claire Hanna, has expressed concern over the relocation proposal by the club, which has been playing its matches for the past four years at the Cliff in Larne.

The team, which recently won the Northern Amateur Football League Premier Division, wants the council to allow it to set up home at Strangford Avenue and fund alterations to the facilities, which it is estimated could cost more than £50,000.

The club has asked the council to erect high level perimeter fencing across the centre of the playing fields and give the team the use of changing rooms.

It also wants turnstiles to be installed and dugouts to be built for officials and substitutes to bring the ground up to the standards required by the football authorities.

Residents who live near the Strangford Avenue site have received letters from Mr Lyons seeking their views.

He said that as the team were based in the Crumlin Star social club at the Ardoyne roundabout, it was anticipated that a large number of their players and supporters would travel to games by car.

He added: "Intermediate matches often attract a few hundred spectators and space would have to be found for cars and visiting team coaches.

"I find it unbelievable that this number of vehicles could attend matches at Strangford Avenue without residents being significantly inconvenienced."

He added: "The playing fields at Strangford Avenue are popular pitches with both the South Belfast League and Belfast and District League centred on these grounds. Both of these leagues and other casual users of the playing fields would be displaced from this facility, disrupting hundreds of local people who regularly use these pitches."

Councillor Lyons said it was unfortunate that there had been no discussion with either of the two leagues.

He said: "I'm significantly disappointed that the council has not undertaken any consultation with residents on and around Strangford Avenue."

One resident, who didn't want to be named, said: "Most people I have talked to are totally opposed to this proposal by Crumlin Star. It's nothing to do with sectarianism. Any club bringing bigger crowds to a quiet area like this would be unwelcome. It would be completely out of character."

Six years ago eight members of the Crumlin Star club were injured after being attacked by loyalists on the Twelfth of July as they returned from an outing to Dundalk races.

A 40-strong mob attacked them with cudgels and bottles at Alliance Avenue after they got off a bus to walk home.

One man sustained a broken leg and foot while another needed stitches to an injury above his eye.

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