Belfast Telegraph

Linfield and Cliftonville have their Irish Football Association fines revoked

The Irish Football Association were forced into an embarrassing climb-down when charges of sectarian singing by Linfield and Cliftonville fans were dismissed by the governing body's Appeals Board.

Both clubs were sanctioned in the wake of their Co Antrim Shield semi-final tie at Windsor Park back in October – which hit the headlines following claims that referee Hugh Carvill had threatened to abandon the game unless spectator behaviour improved.

It subsequently transpired that wasn't true and the public address announcement to that effect had been made in error by Linfield Football Club.

Regardless, both the Blues and Reds were slapped with what the IFA admitted were "unprecedented fines" – which both clubs took a dim view of amid accusations that Windsor Avenue HQ was trying to make an example of them.

Last week, Linfield had their punishment lifted on a technicality following the Appeals Board's assertion that the Disciplinary Committee had failed to follow procedure, while Cliftonville were exonerated entirely due to a lack of evidence.

In a brief statement, the Blues said: "Our loyal and true supporters should not be complacent regarding any possible disciplinary action in the future.

"Any instance of any such singing, chanting or other offensive action from those professing to support our proud club will not be tolerated and the club will take every action open to us to ensure any offenders are punished to the full extent of the law."

Cliftonville, meanwhile, called for the Irish FA to learn from their mistakes in a hard-hitting statement of their own, part of which read: "Before assessing potential breaches of the Disciplinary Code we would urge the IFA to put these in the correct context and consider the efforts of clubs. Where clubs have taken all reasonable, preventative measures, it is surely unfair to punish them for what is essentially a societal problem.

"We would ask the IFA to instead devote tangible resources to helping clubs address this issue with their supporters by direct engagement with them and indeed with clubs.

"We would also call on those politicians, who are always quick to criticise football over such issues, and those others who chose to publically comment on the matter, to realise that football clubs cannot cure what they themselves have failed to resolve."

* SATURDAY'S other top-half fixture in the Danske Bank Premiership saw Portadown overcome Mid-Ulster derby rivals Glenavon 3-0 at Shamrock Park.

Emmet Friars nodded the hosts ahead before defender Chris Casement cracked home two second-half goals to keep the Ports firmly in the hunt for European football.

There was a much tighter derby affair on the Ballycastle Road, where Eoin Bradley's penalty looked to have put Coleraine on course for all three points until Alan Teggart's last-gasp spot-kick earned a draw for Ballymena United.

Dungannon Swifts boss Darren Murphy was "embarrassed" with his side's 4-0 hammering at home to Warrenpoint Town, for whom Hughes brothers Stephen and David were on target as well as Marty Havern and Stephen Moan.

That result means Ards – who drew 0-0 with Ballinamallard United on Friday night – are destined to finish bottom of the Premiership but can still avoid relegation if unlicenced Bangor win Belfast Telegraph Championship 1.

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