Belfast Telegraph

Linfield v Celtic: This is how Windsor Park could look on July 11, which should have been club's biggest payday

By Adrian Rutherford

Police are set to veto a potentially powderkeg eve-of-Twelfth Windsor Park clash between Linfield and Celtic.

It is understood the PSNI has concluded that staging the tie in Belfast on July 11 carries too much risk. The sides are on course to meet for the first time ever in a Champions League qualifier. But concerns have been growing about the potential for trouble since the draw was made on Monday.

Officials from the PSNI and Linfield are due to meet today to discuss security concerns.

However, sources said police have already decided that staging a match at Windsor on July 11 is not an option.

It is understood Linfield are exploring the possibility of playing the tie 48 hours later, on July 13.

The planning is complicated by the fact the Irish League champions still have to navigate a first round play-off.

However, David Healy's (below) side are favourites to progress against San Marino minnows La Fiorita to set up a showdown with Celtic.

With that in mind, planning for a Belfast meeting is already under way.

If they beat La Fiorita, Linfield are scheduled to host Celtic, managed by Co Antrim man Brendan Rodgers, at Windsor Park on July 11 or 12.

Staging the game on the Twelfth has already been ruled out.

Now, the PSNI have told Linfield that they do not want the tie played on July 11 either.

Senior officers are said to be alarmed at the prospect of a high-risk match on an evening when tensions will be running high. It is understood these concerns have been made clear to Linfield.

One option that was considered was bringing the match forward from 7.45pm to 5pm or 5.30pm. However, that too is understood to have been ruled out by police.

Linfield declined to comment yesterday.

A club source indicated other dates around July 11 and 12 were under consideration.

"We are still focusing on staging the game, if it happens, on that week," he said.

"There has been a lot of speculation but, aside from playing it on the Twelfth, which won't happen, nothing is completely ruled in or out.

"We are due to meet with the PSNI soon and any concerns will be addressed then."

Police also declined to comment on a July 11 meeting.

PSNI operations Superintendent for Belfast Norman Haslett said: "Discussions are obviously at a very early and tentative stage as the game has not been confirmed."

Earlier this week a crowd safety expert warned of the risks of staging an eve-of-Twelfth Linfield-Celtic tie.

Andrew McQuillan said: "If you wanted to pick the worst possible day to hold a match like that, it's probably July 11.

"There are other competing factors for policing and security right across Northern Ireland on that day and that week.

"It's also one of the highest-risk games in terms of security that we have had here for some time."

One option is moving the game to July 13.

Playing Champions League games outside of the traditional Tuesday or Wednesday dates is highly unusual.

However, as the game is a qualifier, competition organisers Uefa may be more agreeable to a switch.

Another option is switching the two legs, with the first match staged in Glasgow with the Belfast tie on July 18 or 19.

Belfast Telegraph

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