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Removing banner at Oval 'could have caused a riot'

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The banner at The Oval on Wednesday night

The banner at The Oval on Wednesday night

The banner at The Oval on Wednesday night

A former director of Glentoran Football Club has hit out against a group which unveiled a giant banner protesting against a supergrass trial during a match broadcast live across the UK on TV this week.

But Jim Rodgers also warned that removing the banner during the game could have ended in a riot.

The banner was seen by thousands during Wednesday night’s Irish Premiership game between Glentoran and Linfield aired live on Sky Sports.

The banner, which read ‘Families Against Supergrass Trials — Demand Human Rights And Justice’, was hanging from fencing along the sideline during the game at The Oval in Belfast.

Members of the group also protested outside Laganside Courts at the start of the first supergrass trial since the 1980s.

Ex-Glentoran director Jim Rodgers said the group was taking advantage of the live coverage.

“Obviously they knew it was on Sky and took the opportunity to try and widen the publicity surrounding the supergrass trials.

“Although I’m no longer a director, I don’t approve of any of these political banners at all.

“It’s not the time or the place. I don’t think stadiums should be used for this — anything political.”

The Belfast councillor said that although he was “not happy with the banner”, it was “not illegal” and removing it could have led to

violence. “During my time there was the odd banner that would have been perceived to have been political, but going in you could end up starting a riot.

“By stepping in, there could have been trouble.

“It’s not an illegal banner. There have been banners in the past.”

There were no reports of trouble during or after Wednesday night’s game which ended in a 2 - 0 victory for the home team Glentoran.

Mr Rodgers added he didn’t believe the banner would have reflected poorly on Northern Ireland’s sporting image.

Background

The Families Against Supergrass Trials group came into being in September ahead of the first supergrass trial in Northern Ireland since the 1980s. It has put up banners across east Belfast during the trial in which 14 loyalists are accused of |involvement in the murder of UDA leader Tommy English.

Belfast Telegraph