Furious Irish League Premier club Crusaders have gone to war with some of their own fans, accusing them of launching "malicious personal attacks" on the Internet.
The Belfast Shore Road club are even threatening legal action against individuals they believe are behind a hate campaign against club officials.
Crues chiefs have become increasingly upset at some comments on the popular Irish League Forums website, warning that “misinformation” could place the club’s domestic licence under threat.
A statement on the official club website last night urged “real Crusaders supporters” not to use the Forums and threatened withdrawal of club membership and even bans from their Seaview ground for those deemed to have caused “distress and harm.”
Ironically, the same site provides a link to the Forums website, www.irishleaguesupporters.com.
Last season’s Premier League and Irish Cup runners-up felt clearly rattled enough by the content there to issue a statement, signed by chairman Stephen Bell, vice-chairman Ronnie Millar and treasurer Mark Langhammer.
It read: “The board of Crusaders Football Club calls on Crusaders supporters to urge restraint in their postings on the Irish League Forums website.
“Over the past two years postings on the Crusaders section on Irish League Forums website have caused distress and hurt to people within the club.
“In particular there has been a myriad of false allegations, innuendo, lies, vexatious and malicious personal attacks — all of which have been harmful to Crusaders FC.
“The Crusaders section on this site appears to be more virulently irresponsible than those of other clubs and is not considered by the club to be a useful channel of information.
“In the past year board members of Crusaders have been attacked on these Forums and misinformation posted that could be detrimental to the club, notably in the Licencing process.
“Be under no illusion that these Forums are damaging to the club. Ideally we would ask real Crusaders supporters to avoid the Forums (hosted by a member of another IPL club).
“Failing that we would ask supporters to be responsible in their posts.
“In future, if complaints are made to the board about malicious, false or vexatious allegations being made, the club will act against members engaging in such acts in the strongest possible terms and will consider sanctions up to and including removal of membership and disbarment from club facilities and stadium where proven.
“The club will be seeking to address the use of the Crusaders FC name, brand and logo on this Forum without permission and may have to expend much needed finances on taking the appropriate legal action to protect the club's reputation and standing.”