Belfast Telegraph

Consider harm Glentoran Oval boycott could do to clubs, Linfield fans told

Blues' fans urged to boycott Glentoran game over Billy Boys tune legal action threat

By Steven Beacom and Jonny Bell

Glentoran have urged Linfield fans considering boycotting their league clash at the weekend to think of the harm it will do to both clubs and the local game.

The Linfield Supporters Trust (LST) has called on fans of the club to boycott Saturday’s big Irish League match against Glentoran at the Oval  in response to a complaint made to the PSNI about the playing of tune of The Billy Boys song over the tannoy system when the sides met on Boxing Day at Windsor Park.

The trust, a powerful body with around 400 members, issued a statement saying that they were backing the boycott in support of the Linfield fans who were involved in playing the banned tune. The LST claimed those supporters now face the threat of legal action.

However, Glentoran has said it is the innocent party that has been caught in the middle.

The east Belfast club stressed that it realised Linfield Football Club was in no way behind the call for a boycott.

Glentoran director Ian Clarke told the Belfast Telegraph any action would harm both clubs and the league.

He said: "Glentoran in no way - be it directly or indirectly - raised any objection or complaint to any source about the pre-match playlist at Windsor Park on Boxing Day and nor to we intend to do so.

"We are innocent in this matter.

"Glentoran and Linfield are rivals solely on the pitch and any boycott only harms both the clubs and the Irish League. It is the wrong thing to do."

He added: "We know this call for a boycott has not come from Linfield Football Club and it is only a particular group of supporters that have made this call and I would urge them to rethink what they are planning to do."

Asked for its response, a spokesman for Linfield Football Club said: "The club are dealing with the issue that has rasied this. That being the playing of the tune at the game.

"In regard to the actions of supporters we have no comment to make."

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Following the incident on December 26 last year, Linfield Football Club apologised for the song being played over the PA system insisting that it would never happen again.

The LST, founded in 2013 to promote discussion between the fans and the club, released this statement: “It has been brought to our attention that a number of complaints have been lodged against Linfield FC over the choice of songs played by Linfield on Boxing Day over the tannoy.

“This has included a complaint to the PSNI which could lead to possible legal action against those Linfield fans involved.

“To show our support for the Linfield fans who were on duty on Boxing Day we are therefore supporting a call to boycott the Glentoran v Linfield match at the Oval this Saturday and are asking all Bluemen to do likewise.”

Any boycott would have a major impact on the gate receipts Glentoran would receive from hosting Saturday’s match.

Fans who attended the game in December, which ended in a 1-1 draw, said the most offensive lyrics in the Billy Boys song were replaced, but the official line from the club was that the incident was unacceptable.

Also on Boxing Day it is understood a song with the lyrics ‘we hate Glentoran’ was played.

Glentoran Supporters who were in the stands told this newspaper they took no offense and thought it a joke, albeit a dated one.

Linfield’s statement in January read: “Unfortunately, our usual high standards and match day planning failed us and resulted in a number of songs being played over the public address system before the match that the club regrets and finds unacceptable. As soon as we became aware of the issue, we took action to stop the playing of the songs during this pre-match period.

“We apologise unreservedly for this error to all present on the day and will do our utmost to ensure this does not happen again. The club has started an internal investigation into how this incident occurred and will look at what further action we need to take and how we can protect the club from such issues in the future.

“We should also state at this stage, for the avoidance of all doubt, that the CD played over the tannoy was that of the “Windsor Roar” project. Linfield fans will be aware that this was a semi-official supporters’ initiative from around 10 years ago that sought to moderate and change supporter behaviour through alternative “family friendly” lyrics replacing those of some traditional and some unacceptable terrace chants.

“Whilst the perception of some may have been that offensive music was being played on Boxing Day, Linfield can categorically state that this was not the intention.

“We do, however, reiterate that all variations of the song popularly known as “the Billy Boys” and sung to the tune of “Marching Through Georgia” are deemed unacceptable. This includes other songs sung to the same tune, any use of the tune itself and versions using words that may not be seen to be inherently sectarian in their nature. As such, this tune on the CD should not have been played.

“As our fans know, we are working hard to enhance the match day experience at our new stadium in these comparatively early days of use and we have a number of new and important actions and initiatives that still need to be delivered. We are committed to ensuring Windsor Park continues to reflect the history and ethos of our great club and that the stadium entertainment both on and off the pitch provides us with excitement and more great memories for the future.”

In 2014 the Irish Football Association warned that the singing of the Billy Boys song could lead to games being played behind closed doors adding that Linfield would face ‘punitive sanctions’ if its supporters were found singing any variation of the song.

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