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Ards accept IFA fine after sectarian chanting

By Keith Bailie

Ards Football Club have been hit with a £1,000 fine from the Irish FA after the Disciplinary Committee used YouTube videos to prove there was sectarian singing at the League Cup semi-final.

Cliftonville beat Ards 2-0 in December's League Cup semi-final at Clandeboye Park, but the game was overshadowed by prolonged sectarian singing from the Ards end of the ground.

The Disciplinary Committee viewed seven minutes worth of footage and heard statements from both clubs, before fining Ards £1,000 for breaching 20.3 of the IFA Disciplinary Code.

Ards Chairman Brian Adams said: "We will not be appealing the Committee's decision.

"As a football club we feel our game was hijacked by people who had a different agenda. We're a cross community club with no history of sectarian singing. The people who caused this problem were not Ards supporters, and I think the committee accepted that.

"However, we can't escape the fact that the YouTube footage was damning. The people involved have cost our club a £1,000 that could be better used on other things. We'd like to thank Cliftonville for their help and understanding."

The YouTube footage showed a crowd of around 30 spectators in the Ards end singing The Sash and the Billy Boys, while Cliftonville fans retorted with, 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas.'

While the sectarian singing took place inside the Bangor ground, there was a small Loyalist Flag protest outside the stadium on Hawthorn Court. After the game a Cliftonville supporters' bus was attacked on the Clandeboye Road.

The IFA's Disciplinary Code, states: "Where supporters of a team breach Article 20.1 at a match (offends the dignity of a person or group of persons through contemptuous, discriminatory or denigratory words or actions concerning race, colour, language, religion, origin, disability, sexual orientation or gender) a minimum fine of £1,000 shall be imposed on the club concerned regardless of the question of culpable conduct or culpable oversight."

While Ards received the minimum punishment, Cliftonville and Linfield were both fined £3,000 in relation to the conduct of supporters at the County Antrim Shield semi-final at Windsor Park in November.

Unlike Ards, both Cliftonville and Linfield announced their intention to appeal the decision and their case is set to be heard next month. While Cliftonville declined to comment on the outcome of the Ards hearing, they may have been surprised that Ards' punishment was a third of what they received.

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