Belfast Telegraph

Angry Linfield fans demand IFA to reveal evidence

By Stuart McKinley

Angry Linfield fans have demanded a meeting with the Irish FA as the row over sectarian signing continues.

It is just a week since the governing body was forced to scrap fines imposed on both Linfield and Cliftonville following alleged sectarian singing during a County Antrim Shield tie between the clubs at Windsor Park last October, after both clubs appealed the sanctions.

Since then the IFA has banned supporters from signing 'The Billy Boys' because versions of the song contain sectarian lyrics.

The Linfield Supporters Advisory Forum (LSAF), however, has reacted by claiming that the IFA has acted on perception, rather than fact, when imposing the ban.

The LSAF said, in a statement: "If the IFA is going to tackle sectarianism then it must do so, based upon factual evidence and not upon the individual perceptions of prejudiced officials, blaming Linfield FC and its fans for something of which they simply were not guilty.

To explain our position we would like to highlight a paragraph from the IFA statement: "The IFA also allowed an appeal from Linfield FC as the Appeals Board found the Disciplinary Committee had breached its own procedures, but was satisfied there was sufficient evidence that Linfield supporters had breached a disciplinary code."

"Our anger stems from the assertion in their statement that Linfield supporters breached a disciplinary code based upon sufficient evidence.

"We completely and utterly reject this assertion out of hand and have the evidence to prove it. The PSNI at the game in question recorded the Linfield fans and issued a subsequent statement to Linfield FC and to this Forum's officers that our fans were not guilty of any sectarian singing or chanting at the game in question.

"Given this statement by the PSNI we are now asking for the IFA to clarify publically just what the specific breaches of the disciplinary code were. As the supporters being accused, we have a right to know what evidence led to the above statement.

"What is the sufficient evidence the IFA refers to and from what source does it emanate?"

A message was played over the public address system during the game in question, but it is understood that since then doubts have surfaced over whether referee Hugh Carvill had asked for this to be done or if Linfield acted independently in doing so.

Earlier this week Linfield themsevlves attacked the current IFA disciplinary process, by deeming it 'not fit for purpose' and the LSAF want clarification on the matter.

The group's statement continued: "We as a forum for Linfield fans are incensed at being accused of being sectarian and breaching the IFA's code of conduct, when the real evidence confirms the exact opposite. We are therefore calling on the IFA to make public all of the statements relating to this ruling.

We are also calling on the IFA to meet with us as a supporters' group to discuss the sectarian singing and chanting issue so that they can provide us with guidance to help us rather than make decisions which obstruct us. We await the response from the IFA."

Belfast Telegraph


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