Belfast Telegraph

Glentoran v Linfield festive tie canned

By Steven Beacom and Stuart McKinley

The Irish FA were today accused of killing Irish League football after the Disciplinary Committee at Windsor Avenue decided to wipe the biggest match in the domestic football calendar from the schedule until at least Christmas 2011.

In the wake of the crowd trouble that marred last year’s Linfield v Glentoran Belfast derby on Boxing Day, local football chiefs have outlawed holiday meetings, including the money spinning December 26 clash, between the sides for two seasons from August in an attempt to clean up the game.

Earlier in the season Linfield led 3-0 at Windsor Park when a seven-minute stoppage was needed as stewards failed to control crowd trouble before it was quickly quelled when riot police arrived.

That has led to the Big Two being hit where it hurts — in the pocket — as the festive attendances of some 10,000 (netting the home club in the region of £75,000) are unlikely to be repeated at any other time of the year.

Linfield and Glentoran have said they will be appealing the decision by the IFA Disciplinary Committee.

Both clubs were fined £1,000 after fireworks, bottles, coins and bricks were thrown during the game, as well as seats being broken and launched at opposing fans.

Linfield were also fined £750 for trouble that erupted during a league game with Cliftonville.

This year’s Boxing Day clash was due to take place at the Oval with Glens chairman Aubry Ralph furious that it may not go ahead.

“The Irish FA are charged with growing football in Northern Ireland, but they seem hellbent on killing it,” said Ralph.

“My challenge to the IFA is to wake up and smell the coffee because with decisions like this Irish League football is going to hell in a handcart.

“Of course we don’t want to see violence at football matches and we have roundly condemned the troublemakers, but the IFA decision is punishing thousands of people who did nothing wrong.”

On the appeal, Ralph issued a veiled threat, saying: “If we don’t get the action we require, I would say Premier League clubs would be considering their position in the IFA.”

Linfield chairman Jim Kerr was equally unhappy with the IFA decision.

He said: “We could not believe the decision. It was outrageous and we will appeal it.

“It is ridiculous that so many people can be punished due to 30 or so troublemakers.

“I wonder what the IFA marketing team, who are trying to promote the game here, think about this.”

A spokesperson for the IFA Disciplinary Committee said: “What happened at Windsor Park on Boxing Day was deemed to be a serious disturbance and something had to be done. We felt there was no use simply imposing fines and believe the decision made is ultimately to help and protect Irish League football.

“There were alternatives such as closing the grounds when Big Two games are played and ordering the matches to be played behind closed doors.

“It is worth remembering that bricks were thrown at the last Boxing Day game, seats were ripped up and the game was stopped for seven minutes. We’re not trying to kill football here, we are trying to protect it and show this behaviour will not be tolerated in the future.”

Linfield and Glentoran will want the appeal to take place a soon as possible.

Belfast Telegraph

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