Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Linfield fined for sectarian chanting

Matthew Tipton
Looking up: Orient goalkeeper Jamie Jones celebrates the win

Linfield have been hit with a fresh £1,200 fine for supporters' sectarian songs – just a month after a successful appeal against an earlier financial penalty.

The Irish FA's Disciplinary Committee found Blues fans guilty of breaching Article 20.3 of the Association's Disciplinary Code during a Danske Bank Premiership draw at the Coleraine Showgrounds in March.

The match itself was uneventful, other than the then Linfield manager David Jeffrey complaining that his team was denied a penalty, but the singing from Blues fans was highlighted and now the IFA has taken action.

Article 20.3 states: "(Where supporters of a team) 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 (the club shall be sanctioned with a minimum fine of £1000.)"

The IFA has yet to reveal the exact details of the singing from the Linfield end at the Coleraine Showgrounds during that particular match and Linfield haven't yet confirmed if they will accept the fine or launch an appeal against the verdict.

Sectarian signing has been a thorny issue of late, particularly regarding Linfield and the club's supporters.

In February the IFA concluded a three-month long investigation by fining both Cliftonvile and Linfield £3,000 each for breaching article 20.3, during a County Antrim Shield semi-final at Windsor Park at the end of October, with the Disciplinary Committee committed to stamping out sectarian singing in the domestic game.

The Belfast rivals both launched appeals against those punishments and the attempt to make an example of them backfired when the sanctions were scrapped.

That verdicts were quashed when the Irish FA's Appeals Board found that the Disciplinary Committee had not followed its own procedures and their actions were "without jurisdiction and, therefore, invalid."

Even if the correct procedures had been followed, Cliftonville's sentence would have been overturned, as it was found that there was no evidence to suggest their supporters had indulged in sectarian chanting during the match.

However, the Appeals Board agreed with the Disciplinary Committee's original assertion that Linfield supporters did indulge in sectarian singing.

The IFA has also recently banned the singing of the song known as 'The Billy Boys'.

Linfield communicated this to their fans after the governing body acted on a Uefa appeals decision against Rangers some eight years ago.

Even the tune, which is known as 'Marching through Georgia' has been banned and the changing of the words to remove any lyrics which would be deemed as sectarian is also banned.

Linfield fans have been outraged by that decision and the Linfield Supporters Advisory Forum launched an attack against the IFA in a statement last month and called for a meeting in order to discuss the sectarian singing and chanting issue and to ask for guidance.

Recently relegated Ards have also been punished this season.

The north-Down club was fined £1,000 in March fine for sectarian singing during their League Cup semi-final with Cliftonville at Clandeboye Park in December. Ards, however, did not appeal the decision and paid their fine.

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