Glentoran fan in appeal over Boxing Day rations
A Glentoran fan has contacted all of east Belfast’s political parties to appeal for help for the beleaguered club ahead of this year’s Boxing Day clash with rivals Linfield.
Ricky Rea, who lives in England, says Glentoran are facing the biggest crisis since “the Nazis bombed us in 1941”.
This season health and safety restrictions imposed on all Irish league sides have hit clubs hard financially.
New stands at Solitude, Shamrock Park, and Ballymena Showgrounds have had their capacity cut while fans have complained about “draconian” restrictions at the the Oval, Windsor Park and Seaview.
This year’s Boxing Day derby between the “big two” sees Glentoran fans allocated 2,500 tickets for a stand that holds 7,000 people.
Mr Rea says: “The festive match for me was always a family day out, even my younger sisters and mother went to these games.
“Fans were always decked out in their new Christmas clothes, scores of families attended, even the elderly fans who no longer go to the matches turn up for this match.
“I live in England but had planned to come over with the in-laws and my wife and son. All of us hoped to take in the match. I know four other exiles, so to speak, planning to go to the game, or should that be — we were planning to go to the game.”
Mr Rea wants the politicians of east Belfast to assist in helping the fans voice their concerns.
He feels the health and safety measures will bring many Irish League clubs to the “brink of extinction”.
Mr Rea added: “All fans, and that is every Irish League fan and not just Glens men, are fed up with this fiasco about health and safety.
“It's okay to have close to 15,000 at an international match but only half that at an Irish League game. And it's okay to have a beer tent in the City Hall with hundreds packed in it unable to move, but at an Irish League match you have a metre squared of space between fans.”
East Belfast MLA Robin Newton said: “I have met people from Glentoran and other grounds and I fully appreciate the predicament they are in.
“I hope in the future all grounds will be upgraded to allow full access to as many fans as possible.
“There is an expectation that health and safety must be followed and that is, of course, right, but there is also an expectation that as many fans as possible should be allowed to watch their teams.”