Club gets green (and white) light to adopt Belfast Celtic name
A west Belfast football club has been successful in its controversial application to change its name.
Sport and Leisure Swifts will be renamed Belfast Celtic ahead of the 2019-20 season after the Irish Football Association approved the name change.
The Premier Intermediate League side had announced its intention to change its name at the club's AGM last summer.
At the time the decision proved contentious, with the Belfast City Society and existing club Belfast Celtic Young Men (BCYM) both expressing concern.
This had resulted in the IFA putting a decision on hold.
However, it confirmed yesterday that the name change had been granted, revealing it had reached its decision following discussions with relevant stakeholders.
"Over recent months, the association has consulted with the club, NIFL, the County Antrim FA and the Belfast Celtic Society. The views of all stakeholders were presented to the board," the IFA said.
The Belfast Celtic Society, set up to "protect and preserve" the history of the original club, stressed that there were no links between the new venture and the old entity.
Belfast Celtic won 14 Irish League titles, but dissolved itself in 1949 after a number of sectarian incidents culminated in the club's players being attacked by Linfield fans during a pitch invasion at Windsor Park on Boxing Day 1948.
"We would reiterate our society has no part in this decision and will have no involvement with Sport and Leisure FC going forward," it said.
Sport and Leisure said it was disappointed by the response.
"Our club have not entered this process with opportunism and exploitation in mind, rather we see it as a chance to encourage the growth of senior football in the west of the city and to develop talent and encourage a better view of our area," it said.
Meanwhile, BCYM co-founder Ryan Whelan said that the decision felt like a "kick in the teeth".
"Our plan is to be up there in Irish League football within 20 years and, while it is not their aim to get us to change our name, we're concerned that Sport and Leisure's proposal could hurt us," he said.
West Belfast is the only area of the city not currently represented in the Irish Premiership.