Belfast Telegraph

Linfield fans will get a taste of Paradise at Celtic Park

...but Celtic will not sell tickets for Windsor tie

By Graham Luney

Celtic say they will not sell tickets to their fans if the club takes on Linfield in a Champions League blockbuster at Windsor Park next month, but the Blues insist their supporters will be going to Paradise.

If Linfield can overcome SP La Fiorita of San Marino in a first round qualifying tie - the first leg is at Windsor Park on Wednesday (7.45pm) - they will clash with Brendan Rodgers' Hoops, but the Scottish Premiership champions have urged their fans not to travel to Belfast, citing security fears.

The Windsor showdown will kick off on Friday, July 14 at 5pm, but supporters are disappointed that more Celtic fans will not be part of the electric atmosphere.

Linfield, however, have confirmed that should they meet Celtic their fans will be cheering them on at Parkhead on Wednesday, July 19.

"We will be taking up our allocation for the game at Parkhead if the match happens," said Linfield chairman Roy McGivern. "Our supporters are looking forward to it and my understanding is away clubs are entitled to 5% of the ground capacity. We will just see what interest there is."

READ MORE: Celtic fans angry as Hoops turn down tickets for potential Linfield clash

Parkhead can hold 60,411 fans and Linfield are hopeful of bringing at least 3,000 supporters to Glasgow, but Celtic's decision to refuse their ticket allocation for the potential game in Belfast has taken a little gloss off the tie. Linfield, however, could pocket £1m from the fixture and McGivern confirmed that talks are ongoing regarding live television coverage of the Windsor clash.

"There is interest from television companies and we are looking at that," he added. "We are very confident that the game, if it happens, will be televised live. We are hoping that will be confirmed in due course but our total focus is on the two games against SP La Fiorita."

The July 14 date for the game was pencilled in after the PSNI expressed concern over a fixture on July 11 or 12, and after talks with police chiefs and Celtic, Linfield got Uefa’s approval and the home first leg they desired.

But there were fears that few Hoops fans would attend the game in light of security concerns with the Twelfth parades that week.

Celtic stated that they were happy to contest the first leg in Belfast but were not prepared to encourage their supporters to attend the match.

“Following security concerns raised by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), Celtic has taken part in discussions with Linfield and the PSNI over recent days,” read the Hoops statement.

“While there can be an option to reverse the fixtures if both clubs agree, during discussions, Linfield made it clear that they did not wish to reverse the tie and they wanted play their home leg first.

“In addition, as is often the case in football, Celtic’s football management team wished to play our away leg first so that we could benefit from the advantage of playing the second leg at home in front of our supporters at Celtic Park for this crucial European tie.

“Following the discussions, it was agreed among the clubs and PSNI and has now been confirmed with Uefa that, should Linfield progress to the second qualifying round, Celtic’s Uefa Champions League match against Linfield will take place at Windsor Park on Friday, 14 July, with a 5pm kick-off.

“No tickets will be available for Celtic supporters for the match. The safety and security of all Celtic supporters travelling and attending matches is of paramount importance to the club.”

PSNI Operations Superintendent for Belfast Norman Haslett said: “Public safety concerns surrounding the fixture and the impact on the greater Belfast area over the Twelfth period have featured strongly in our considerations and discussions.

“The match, if it comes about, will be played in Belfast on Friday 14th July, with kick-off at 5pm.

“I am hopeful that the game will pass off without incident and that the City of Belfast can be showcased as a great venue for European football.”

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