Belfast Telegraph

I did not threaten to abandon Linfield v Cliftonville over sectarian chanting, insists referee

By Keith Bailie

Referee Hugh Carvill has denied that he threatened to abandon Tuesday night's County Antrim Shield semi-final between Linfield and Cliftonville.

During Linfield's 4-1 win, a number of sectarian songs, from both sets of supporters, were heard. In the 81st minute an announcement was read out over the Windsor Park PA system informing spectators that if the singing continued the game would be abandoned.

But referee Carvill has stated that he did not threaten to abandon the game, rather, he asked for Linfield to play the IFA's standard pre-recorded anti-sectarianism message.

Belfast man Carvill said: "During the course of the second-half I heard some chanting from the crowd.

"Obviously I was focused on the game but when I got the opportunity to speak to my fourth official I asked for the standard anti-sectarian announcement to be read out.

"Unfortunately it would appear the communication broke down and what was read out was not what I said. We never said the game was going to be abandoned.

"This has always been within our remit to ask for an announcement and there was maybe a lull in the game which made it more noticeable.

"Depending on how bad it got, then possibly the game would be abandoned, but that is hypothetical.

"On Tuesday, I didn't think it was bad enough for it to be abandoned and that is why I asked for the anti-sectarianism announcement to be played as it had been going on for about 10 minutes.

"Like I said, there was a breakdown in communications but thankfully the chanting then stopped." After consulting with Carvill, fourth official Ray Crangle passed the message onto Linfield, but a breakdown in communications led to Linfield announcing that the game would be abandoned if the sectarian singing continued.

Match-going Irish League fans will be well aware of the IFA's pre-recorded Football For All message.

The message, voiced by Cool FM's Pete Snodden, is played before every NIFL Premiership match. It makes it clear that sectarianism and racism is not accepted at matches.

It is within a referee's remit to ask for the announcement to be played during the game if sectarian chanting is heard.

Although it has never been aired during an Irish League game, it was played at Seaview during the 2011 Border Regiment Cup final between Crumlin Star and Islandmagee.

Meanwhile, former Fifa official Alan Snoddy has joined the chorus of praise for Carvill and histeam for issuing the announcement at Windsor.

"The decision by Hugh and his team to issue the warning over the tannoy system clearly helped calm the situation and it was great to see that happen," said Snoddy the former head of refereeing at the IFA. "No-one wants to go back to the bad old days and this was a very disappointing development.

"Hopefully the message is now getting across that this behaviour will not be tolerated. We have made a lot of progress in this area but clearly more could be done.

"A stadium announcement in these circumstances is very unusual but, in this case, it was very appropriate."

The man in the middle

Belfast man Hugh Carvill is a widely respected referee with considerable Irish League experience.

He graduated to the position of a senior referee in 2009 and has since taken charge of matches in the Irish League's Premiership as well as all the cup competitions including the all-Ireland Setanta Cup tournament.

Carvill was the man in the middle for Glentoran's 1-0 win over St Patrick's Athletic at the Oval in February.

He has also officiated in the Republic of Ireland as part of a referee exchange programme.

Irish League referees are often in the spotlight and Carvill came under fire following a match at Windsor Park earlier in the season.

Ballymena United boss Glenn Ferguson was unhappy with Carvill's preformance during a 4-1 defeat to Linfield, saying afterwards: "I hope Hugh Carvill can go home tonight and enjoy his bottle of wine or meal with his wife because it will be hard for me to digest."

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