Cliftonville have expressed ‘disgust and dismay’ at chanting from sections of their support during Friday’s league game with Linfield at Windsor Park.
During the 1-1 draw, screened live on BBC NI television, Pro-IRA songs could be heard coming from where the Cliftonville fans were located in the stadium leaving officials of the north Belfast club fuming, leading yesterday to the release of a hard-hitting statement condemning what happened.
The Reds declared that Friday’s events will not be tolerated and they would work closely with the relevant authorities to ensure action is taken against those involved in the chanting adding that a full review of how tickets are distributed in the future will take place “to ensure that our true supporters are not impacted by the actions of others”.
Cliftonville fans, taking up their full allocation of 1350 tickets, were situated in the Kop at Windsor for an eagerly awaited encounter between the League leaders and Champions Linfield.
Before a ball had been kicked, the Red Army generated a fantastic atmosphere from the most acoustic area of the ground, making much more noise than their Blues counterparts in the North Stand but, as the Belfast derby wore on, a section of supporters started to chant pro-IRA songs.
On social media after the game, some Cliftonville fans — who follow their side home and away — voiced their disapproval of the chants, pointing out this was not a regular occurrence at matches, while the Solitude board were quick to act hitting out at those “who use our club as a flag of convenience”.
Yesterday’s full statement read: “Cliftonville Football Club places on record our disgust, dismay and condemnation of some of the chanting that occurred at last night’s Danske Bank Premiership fixture with Linfield at Windsor Park, by those who chose to use the game and our club as a flag of convenience.
“Cliftonville has and always will remain a club that draws its membership, staff, volunteers, players and support from all sections and backgrounds of our community.
“What happened last night will not be tolerated and will lead to a full review of how tickets are distributed for all games to ensure that our true supporters are not impacted by the actions of others.
“Those involved in the chanting can be assured that we will work closely with the relevant authorities to ensure action is taken against them.
“We know that the vast majority of those in attendance share our abhorrence at what occurred and will support the club in our stance.
“Cliftonville FC also wish to help support those involved in working towards peace and reconciliation in our society. The Directors have therefore also agreed to make a significant donation to the 174 Trust in Belfast, who work tirelessly in this field.”
Fans from Cliftonville and other clubs welcomed the powerful statement from the Solitude outfit. Some unsavoury chants could also be heard from the Linfield section of the stadium with the Blues stating they will investigate any issues, adding that they are totally opposed to sectarianism.
A Linfield spokesman said: “Linfield FC will review all issues resulting from Friday’s game, once the club is in receipt of the official reports from the relevant authorities.
“Linfield Football Club is totally opposed to sectarianism and all forms of discriminatory behaviour and abuse.”
For the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL), doing fine work to promote the game here and led expertly by new Chief Executive Gerard Lawlor, this was not how they wished to kick off their new contract with BBC Northern Ireland. The authorities may take action in the days ahead.
A NIFL statement read: “The NI Football League note the allegations from Linfield v Cliftonville on Friday evening and will seek observations from the match observer’s report to determine the next steps.”
An Irish FA spokesperson added: “The Irish FA condemns sectarianism and all forms of discrimination. We will await next steps once NIFL has reviewed the match observer’s report.”