Cliftonville rematch must be at Seaview, say Crusaders
Crusaders have reaffirmed their intention to play the postponed Irish Premiership game at home to Cliftonville as soon as possible, urging those involved in flag protests that saw Saturday's match called off not to hold protests close to Seaview in the future.
In a carefully worded statement released on Tuesday, Crusaders said politics played no place in sport requesting that their "members, supporters, local residents, community groups, schools, churches, politicians, sporting bodies, and all other interested parties use their influence to put an end to flag protests in the environs of our stadium."
The statement made a point of illustrating what the north Belfast club means to the local community.
It read: "Crusaders FC have been in existence for over 100 years and have been located at our Seaview Stadium for over 90 years.
"We currently have over 500 members and have an even greater number of associate members. The vast majority of these members live in North Belfast and over 50 percent live within a two mile radius of Seaview. Our club is owned by fans and run by fans.
"We have 14 teams competing at all levels of Irish football including a highly successful youth academy and equally successful ladies section. We have over 200 players registered to play for our football club, and over 300 North Belfast schoolchildren use our facilities on a weekly basis.
"Our club at present has 44 employees of which five are full-time positions.
"We have over 70 volunteers who give freely of their time as coaches, stewards, turnstile operators, administration and other duties. These volunteers are the backbone of our club and we could not operate without them.
"It is a matter of great pride for our club that our membership, employees, volunteers, players and supporters come from all sections of the community. That is the way things have always been at Crusaders and it is the way it will remain.
"Our facilities are used by the whole community including local schools, dance clubs, marching bands, community groups, cross community organisations, local charities, and local businesses."
Crusaders added that months in advance of the postponed game they had extensive meetings with local residents from Skegoneill Avenue, who had raised concerns regarding Cliftonville fans travelling to games at Seaview, adding that a protest had been mooted.
After further meetings, however, and engagement with Cliftonville, Crusaders stated residents assured the PSNI on February 13 that there was no planned protest detailing measures agreed for the match .
The statement continued: "All parties kept to this agreement and there was no protest by the Skegoneil Avenue residents. We would like to thank the residents of Skegoneil Avenue, The HUBB community group, Cliftonville FC, and other interested local parties for their support in our efforts to stage our game on Saturday past.
"We now need the entire community to show their support for our football club at this very difficult time. It is our contention that this game should be played at Seaview at the earliest possible opportunity and we know we have the support of Cliftonville FC and the wider football family in that regard.
"Finally we would like to apologise to any football supporters or local residents who were inconvenienced last Saturday."