Sponsors of Glentoran Football Club remained silent yesterday following a fan backlash over the signing of striker Jay Donnelly.
Donnelly (25) is to join the club from Belfast Celtic after he served a three-month prison sentence last year for distributing an indecent image of a child.
He was prosecuted for taking a picture of a 16-year-old girl while they were having sex in 2016, when he was playing for Cliftonville.
On Wednesday Glentoran released a lengthy statement urging fans to give Donnelly the chance to rebuild his life and career, while acknowledging the suffering of the victim.
Comments were disabled on the Glentoran Twitter account but hundreds of fans still took to the team's Facebook page to vent their anger, with several threatening to cancel their season tickets and stop bringing their children to games in protest.
Ashfield Boys' High School, which has a football academy partnership with Glentoran, also said yesterday that Donnelly would not be welcome on college grounds.
Principal Jo McColgan said: "As a school, we are not in a position to speak about the signing of Mr Jay Donnelly as this is purely a matter for Glentoran Football Club. We can assure everyone connected with our great school that Mr Donnelly will not be on school premises nor involved with any of our pupils."
A number of Glentoran's sponsors were contacted yesterday for their views on the signing, with several declining to comment.
Asked about the overwhelmingly negative reaction from fans on the club's Facebook page, a Glentoran spokesperson said: "The club understands that there are various opinions and strongly held views within the supporter base.
"The manager did consult with a number of supporters and supporters' clubs ahead of taking the final decision.
"The club will be happy to meet and discuss this and our other plans for the new season with any supporters' group within the coming weeks."
Speaking on Radio Ulster's Stephen Nolan programme yesterday, Glentoran manager Mick McDermott was asked about what message the signing sent out to young women.
"I think there's a bigger picture here in the general treatment of women and young women within our society," he said.
"I've spoken to my daughters about this. I would be really upset if this had happened to them. But I think there's an educational component to this (on) the complete mistreatment of females within our society."
Mr McDermott said he believed Donnelly had served his punishment, shown remorse and should be given a chance to rebuild his career and life, "a thing that any person should be allowed to do".
Asked why Donnelly did not give a radio interview himself, he said he was a player who "would not handle a media situation well". He also confirmed that the club had not tried to contact the victim's family ahead of the announcement.
On Wednesday Belfast Feminist Network said it was "disappointed" by the signing and said it believed Glentoran had "chosen to use language that plays down and makes excuses for his behaviour".
Among the comments from supporters on the Glentoran Facebook page, one mother of two daughters said she was now "ashamed" to follow the team.
"Had been looking forward to taking my two young daughters to The Oval but they will be nowhere near the place now."
Another supporter described the signing as "the most shameful moment in the club's history".