Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Morons deserve to be shown the red card

Up in smoke: Windsor Park is just one ground that has been hit by flare trouble before

You would think that a club involved in another title race would have enough concerns at this stage of the season.

Sadly not – Cliftonville have demonstrated their toughness on the pitch, now they have another battle on their hands off it.

It shouldn't be this way of course but the reality is there are far too many people out there who insist on making fools of themselves.

The Irish League has wrestled with these idiots for as long as I can remember but it's always refreshing when a club decides to tackle them.

In recent matches at Solitude – particularly the League Cup Final against Crusaders and Premiership game with Linfield – smoke bombs have been let off.

If Cliftonville allowed this behaviour to continue, someone could get hurt and damage would be caused to the facilities including the artificial surface. The Reds have been pro-active in tackling the issue.

The club placed a firm warning on their website and fans have been told that CCTV footage, photographs and other information supplied by supporters will be used to round up the culprits.

Their statement added: "We are confident that, with the information already available to the Club, we will be issuing life bans from Solitude, instigating proceedings against individuals for criminal damage and co-operating with the PSNI as persons are pursued under the Justice Act (NI) 2011."

This anti-social behaviour reflects poorly on the morons who are responsible for it but those individuals only succeed in causing problems for the club they claim to support.

Genuine fans want to watch the game in peace and get behind the players – their viewing experience should not be disrupted by anyone who thinks they can act the clown.

Cliftonville's positive approach to this problem should be applauded and heeded by other clubs.

Football also gives people a platform to share their ignorant views with the world but the decent fans don't want to listen to it.

We've had to endure sectarian chanting this season, while Cliftonville duo Conor Devlin and Liam Boyce needed police escorts after receiving sectarian abuse while watching a Premiership game between Linfield and Glentoran.

Devlin and some of his team-mates also had to duck missiles on the way off the pitch after the Reds beat Linfield 4-2 at Windsor Park in August.

We can also recall when then Coleraine player Johnny Black was punched by a fan at Solitude in 2011.

Also that year, former Glentoran goalkeeping coach David McClelland was knocked to the ground as a firework blew a contact lens out of his eye.

The firework could have struck any of the players or a ball-boy.

There was also the case in November 2008, of Linfield player Conor Hagan being struck by a firework at the County Antrim Shield final against Cliftonville at Windsor Park.

Clubs should use more CCTV to pick out individuals who embarrass themselves because our game has enough headaches to contend with.

If we want a new generation of fans to follow our teams then we are relying on parents to bring kids to matches. So clubs must slam the turnstile shut on supporters who behave in an unacceptable way.

Our game has also never had a bigger audience with Sky Sports cameras in town, so the stakes are higher.

However, I have sympathy for clubs who must confront hooligan behaviour.

Stewards, who are sometimes threatened, aren't the James Bonds of the Irish League, capable of going after the villains.

And anyone with a coin in their pocket can hurt a player – as happened when Rio Ferdinand was struck on the head at the end of a Manchester derby. He came within an inch of being blinded.

Rivalries are intense and never more so than at this stage of the season when trophies are up for grabs but everything needs to be kept in perspective.

What we have is a fantastic product that can thrive without these idiots.

Memo to the plague of eejits – your club and the Irish League don't need you.

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