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Linfield and Cliftonville united in slamming bigots

By Graham Luney

Linfield and Cliftonville have united in their condemnation of the bigots who marred Tuesday's County Antrim Shield semi-final at Windsor Park.

The Blues booked their place in the final with a 4-1 win, however the football wasn't the talking point.

Sectarian chanting could be heard from both the home and away sections of the international venue until the 81st minute when referee Hugh Carvill opted to stop the game and instruct that an announcement be made warning the fans to stop the verbal assaults.

Carvill said afterwards that the announcement was not meant to be a threat to abandon the game but a warning to the fans to stop the chanting.

The fans' behaviour, even though it comes from a minority of the clubs' support, harms the image of both Linfield and Cliftonville.

There was sectarian chanting at a game involving the two sides at Windsor Park earlier in the season but on that occasion the match officials didn't feel the need to issue a warning to supporters.

Both clubs have been tireless in their support of cross-community initiatives and that's why they felt the need to express their disgust at the incidents yesterday.

A Linfield statement read: "Linfield FC condemns unreservedly the distasteful sectarian chanting from a very small minority of those claiming to support BOTH sides during sections of last night's County Antrim Shield semi-final tie against Cliftonville at Windsor Park.

"This club has worked hard and will continue to work hard to oppose sectarianism and any other forms of intolerance which have no place in our game.

"Towards the end of last night's game with Linfield comfortably leading 3-0, a message was relayed from the match officials via the home dug-out to the PA announcer to make an announcement that the game would be abandoned, if the sectarian chanting did not cease.

"The PA announcer dutifully did as he was asked.

"As already stated the sectarian chanting was from a very small minority of supporters of BOTH teams and this should not detract from the excellent behaviour of the vast number of Linfield and Cliftonville supporters who were able to support their team in the proper manner."

Linfield manager David Jeffrey declined to comment on the incidents after the game but Cliftonville boss Tommy Breslin was critical of the chanting and the Reds also issued a statement last night, underlining their frustration at the night's unsavoury events.

It read: "Following the events that surrounded last night's game against Linfield, Cliftonville FC reaffirm our commitment to and enforcement of our Club's spectator 'Code of Conduct'.

"Cliftonville FC will not tolerate any form of sectarianism and will, in conjunction with the Irish Football Association and other bodies, continue to strive to eradicate it from football.

"Our spectator 'Code of Conduct' can be found at"

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