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Fifa warning after sectarian chants at Windsor Park

By Graham Luney

The Irish FA, Linfield, Cliftonville and the PSNI will review their efforts at stamping out sectarian chanting at football grounds follwing the threat of sanctions from Fifa.

Fifa vice president Jim Boyce has warned clubs that grounds could be closed down or clubs deducted points if nothing is done to eradicate the verbal abuse.

Sectarian bile broke out from the home and away sections at Windsor Park during Linfield's 4-1 win over Cliftonville in the County Antrim Shield semi-final. In the 81st minute referee Hugh Carvill and his officials requested an announcement over the PA system appealing for the chanting to stop and it had the desired effect.

Cliftonville president and former chairman Boyce (right) said: "Fifa and Uefa could be forced to intervene in these matters.

"The sanctions available include playing games behind closed doors ...and deducting points."

Boyce admitted he was disgusted by the chanting and referred to it as "pathetic."

"Players on the pitch of all religions should not have to listen to these idiots and if they want to indulge in sectarianism, then they should stay away from football grounds," he told the BBC.

"Clubs have to take this issue seriously because if it is reported to Fifa or Uefa and the local authorities do not take action, Fifa and Uefa will be forced to intervene. People who indulge in this behaviour don't care about fines.

"Options being discussed for the future include the closure of sections of the ground where this behaviour occurs, ordering games to be played behind closed doors and, if it continues, points could be taken off clubs. The referee felt compelled to take action and I admire him for taking a stand to eradicate this sort of thing."

He added: "Since stewarding was introduced at Irish League matches things have improved 90%, it's nothing like it used to be in the past, but it still should not have happened."

Linfield supporters could be heard singing 'The Billy Boys' while some Reds fans sang pro-IRA songs. Irish FA chiefs held a meeting last night to discuss their response to the chanting.

The football body is coming under increasing pressure to tackle this issue.

IFA chief-executive Patrick Nelson and president Jim Shaw will need to liaise with clubs to see what further measures can be taken to prevent a repeat occurance of the chanting.

Cliftonville already operate an efficient stewarding programme at Solitude and their Championship League clash with Celtic passed off without major incident.

There was trouble when the two sides met at Windsor Park back in August when bottles and coins were thrown from the Kop Stand at Cliftonville players including keeper Conor Devlin. Following those incidents, the Blues said they would have extra cameras at their Irish Premiership match against Glentoran at the end of August in an attempt to deter troublemakers.

Belfast Telegraph


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