Belfast Telegraph

Safety expert warns Celtic fans will attend Linfield clash after tickets emerge on resale sites

By Adrian Rutherford

Fears are growing that Celtic fans will gate crash next week's clash at Linfield, with a safety expert warning it will be almost impossible to keep away supporters out.

Despite Celtic not taking their ticket allocation amid safety concerns, tickets for the game are being offered for resale by supporters online - with no control over who buys them.

The sides meet in a Champions League qualifier in Belfast next Friday.

The build-up to the eagerly-anticipated tie has been dominated by security concerns.

However, within hours of going on sale on Thursday, tickets were being offered on resale websites.

A crowd safety expert warned it was impossible to keep Celtic fans from the match.

Andrew McQuillan said: "If a Celtic supporter wants to go to that game, there is no way they won't get in.

"I have already seen people offering tickets online.

"I can get a ticket myself and if I can get one, anyone else can."

Mr McQuillan (below) said the safest option would have been to accommodate away fans.

A major policing operation has been in place since the sides were paired in the draw for the second round of Champions League qualifiers last month.

They were scheduled to meet on July 11 or 12, but the tie was moved back 48 hours to avoid a clash with the Twelfth.

It will also kick off at an earlier time of 5pm.

Celtic decided the potential for disorder was still too big a risk and opted not to take their allocation of tickets.

The club said "the safety and security of all Celtic supporters travelling and attending matches is of paramount importance to the club".

Yet tickets, bought by fans who no longer want them, are available for anyone to purchase online.

Two were listed for sale on one well-known classified ads website, while some were being offered on fan forums.

Mr McQuillan said the lack of official arrangements for visiting fans could create problems if some access the stadium.

"The people planning the security for this tie will all be experienced and capable, and they will undoubtedly have expected this," he added.

"It is virtually impossible to stop Celtic fans attending this game.

"The problem is when they get into the stadium, what do you do with them?

"The safest option for me would have been to have facilitated the fans. If you let them in, at least you can control them.

"I have no doubt some Celtic fans will travel over for the game.

"The vast majority will be decent, law-abiding fans, but all it takes is one or two others to cause a problem."

A Linfield source said it was inevitable Celtic fans would get into the stadium.

He said plans have already been drawn up for how to respond.

"Should Celtic fans get into the ground, they will not be removed, they will be put into the west stand," the source said.

Linfield did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

Earlier this week, the club said: "We would like to reiterate that no tickets will be made available for Celtic fans for this game, as outlined by Celtic FC in their recent club statement."

Former Cliftonville boss Tommy Breslin said he believes Celtic fans will be at Windsor Park next Friday.

Breslin, whose Cliftonville side faced Celtic in a Champions League qualifier four years ago, said: "The supporters are resourceful and they'll get a ticket from somewhere.

"I think Celtic took the decision not to sell tickets because they were worried about punishments, possibly a hefty fine, following sectarian chanting but I'd be totally gobsmacked if no Celtic supporters were there."

The Celtic Trust and Green Brigade supporters groups had also asked for a rethink on tickets.

The Celtic Trust said: "We believe that the board is more concerned with protecting the brand than the welfare of the fans or the success of our team."

Tickets are also being sold on Ticketmaster, although this is restricted to Linfield fans.

Ticketmaster said only people with a Northern Ireland billing address can apply.

It warned any billing addresses without a postcode prefixed with BT - in other words outside Northern Ireland - will have the order cancelled.

However, some pointed out that this would not stop any Celtic fans living in Northern Ireland purchasing a ticket.

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