Belfast Telegraph

Safety fears meant no flags or anthems at women's Northern Ireland v Republic match

By Claire Williamson

No national anthems were played nor flags raised ahead of Northern Ireland's Women's World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland in Lurgan on Tuesday night due to "safety concerns".

The Irish FA said the decision was taken due to "safety concerns".

Northern Ireland lost 2-0 at Mourneview Park.

The PSNI said the decision for neither anthem to be played or flags flown was made "solely by UEFA, not the PSNI".

In a statement UEFA said: "Both associations agreed not to fly any national flags nor play any of the national anthems".

"This decision was based on safety and security priorities and was validated by the UEFA match delegate on site."

The IFA said it was "disappointed" that "normal" pre-match protocols could not be observed.

A spokesman said: "Following safety concerns raised ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifier between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland at Mourneview Park, it was agreed with the UEFA match delegate that neither national anthem be played or flag be flown before the game.

"The Irish FA believes that the flag of both competing teams should be flown at a match venue and that their anthems should be played before a game. While understanding the safety concerns behind the UEFA match delegate’s decision, the association is disappointed that it was not possible for the normal pre-match protocols to be observed last night."

FAI spokesman Ian Mallon said: "In advance of last night’s 2019 World Cup qualifier with Northern Ireland at Mourneview Park in Lurgan, the Football Association of Ireland was informed by UEFA that no national anthems would be played or flags would be flown prior to the game.

"The UEFA decision was made on foot of information received by the police, the match venue, and the IFA around safety concerns."

Republic of Ireland manager Colin Bell told the BBC they wanted to "leave the political stuff to other people" but added that he had been practising the national anthem and was "upset" he didn't get to sing it.

He said: "That was decided above our heads we can't change it so we didn't talk about it.

"I've been learning the national anthem so personally I was a little bit upset that I wasn't able to sing it for the first time because I've been practising.  But other than that we just wanted to come and get three points and leave all the other political stuff to other people."

Newry City captain Grace Murray who has represented the Republic previously, told Q Radio that there is "no place" for this in football.

She said: "I was informed there was no national anthems nor flag raised before the game due to a security threat and that UEFA agreed for neither anthem to be played.

"There is no place in football for this it should have been a proud moment for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland on both teams there is both catholics and protestants.

"I think it's disgusting it has come to this and has cast a negative shadow over the whole experience."

The result means Northern Ireland are still without a point in Group 3 after they lost their opening qualifier 4-1 away to top seeds Norway on Friday.

Next up for Northern Ireland is a trip to Slovakia on November 27.

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