Belfast youth football team's future at Girdwood in doubt after new attack
A north Belfast youth football team have said they may stop using a community football pitch because of threats and intimidation.
On Wednesday night youth teams from Grove United were training on the 3G pitch at Girdwood Community Hub when a group of around 30 youths reportedly gathered around the pitch.
DUP MLA William Humphrey said scores of fireworks and bangers were then set off, with some landing on the field. Four youth teams from ages nine to 15, both boys and girls, were training at the time.
"It was very intimidating for the young players, some of whom were in tears, and for many parents who have subsequently contacted our offices," Mr Humphrey said.
The North Belfast MLA said it was the latest in a series of attacks against Grove's youth teams at Girdwood. The Under-16 team already refuses to play there and "the club is now reviewing its entire future use of this facility".
"This is totally unacceptable. There are serious matters arising for Belfast City Council, which owns the facility, and for the PSNI who, we are told, had a presence in the area but did not intervene. We are seeking meetings at a senior level," Mr Humphrey said.
"Girdwood should be a shared facility for all and needs to have adequate security arrangements to counteract those intent on engaging in blatant antisocial and sectarian intimidation."
Grove United head of youth development John Haddock said the club's future at Girdwood was uncertain due to "the scale of threats and intimidation".
Police said they received a report of youths trying to antagonise others using the facilities at around 7pm on Wednesday. Officers and community workers encouraged the crowd to leave, but they later returned.
"Stones and fireworks were thrown at officers, but there were no reports of any injuries and no arrests were made," a PSNI spokesperson said.