Belfast Telegraph

Firework yobs must be jailed

By Graham Luney

Linfield chairman Jim Kerr has called for anyone caught throwing fireworks at football matches to be thrown in jail.

The Irish League’s image took a battering on Wednesday night when two Glentoran coaches were injured by a firework hurled from the Oval stand housing Portadown fans.

The shocking scenes, which resulted in Glens goalkeeping coach David McClelland suffering from a perforated ear drum, has sparked increased security measures for Monday night’s Sky-televised clash at the same venue between Glentoran and David Jeffrey’s side.

As the host club, it is the Glens’ responsibility to ensure that fans are adequately searched going into the ground and a private security firm will carry out those duties meticulously.

Any repeat of a firework throwing incident in front of the Sky Sports cameras would be disastrous for a league already fighting to bring more fans through the turnstiles in tough economic conditions.

Linfield have been unable to sell out their 2,600 ticket allocation for the fixture, but the fans who will travel to east-Belfast can expect a significant number of police and stewards to be on duty.

Following the disgraceful incident on Wednesday night, Portadown have confirmed that one individual has been given a lifetime ban and he could also face criminal charges. Kerr, who shares the widespread disgust at the attacks, would like to see the culprits locked up.

“I understand that Portadown have issued a life ban and that is welcome, but I believe it shouldn’t stop there,” said Kerr.

“I feel that these people should be handed a custodial sentence. They should be sent to jail. When you throw a firework like that you have no control of what it is going to do and the consequences can be very serious.

“We are trying to encourage people to come to football matches and why should they be subjected to this kind of behaviour. I was shocked as everyone else when I heard about what happened.

“Why would anyone in their right come to a game with the intention of throwing fireworks. We don’t want them there.”

A Glentoran v Linfield fixture is famous for generating an intense atmosphere and on isolated occasions, crowd trouble has erupted and missiles have been thrown.

Kerr feels fixture schedulers should perhaps consider moving such high profile games away from the Halloween period when fireworks are more readily available.

But the Irish FA could do nothing about Tuesday’s clash as it was an IRN-BRU League Cup tie.

“I’m not sure the best idea to play these matches is over the Halloween period,” added Kerr. “There are more fireworks and flares around and there are more opportunities for people to get their hands on them.

“It’s worrying that people use children to smuggle these things into grounds and of course we’ve had problems with laser pens as well. You just hope that all right thinking supporters would stand up and say we don’t want people damaging the reputation of our football clubs.”

Following the shocking incident at the Oval, Portadown have confirmed that information has been handed to the police.

“We can confirm that as of Thursday afternoon, one of the offenders observed throwing a firework has been identified and his name and address has been passed to the PSNI,” said a club statement.

“This individual will be given a lifetime ban from Shamrock Park (Portadown's home ground), as well as facing potential criminal charges.

“Portadown FC will continue to work with the PSNI, IFA and Glentoran FC to identify those involved in these acts of hooliganism.”

A police statement read: “In relation to this game, we had extra resources dedicated to policing the area outside the grounds for this football match.

“On this occasion when asked for assistance, a decision was taken that it would not be appropriate for police to enter the grounds amidst hundreds of fans to effect arrests in the middle of the game.

“Instead, at the end of the game police liaised with stewards and are currently actively investigating the incident and will be working with the club on viewing CCTV footage to identify any other persons involved.”

A man was arrested for disorderly behaviour and possession of an offensive weapon.

He has since been released on bail pending further enquiries.

Belfast Telegraph


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