06 January 2006

Loyalist threat to Ardoyne soccer players


Ardoyne Working Men’s Club are under threat by loyalists after reports of leaflets on Shankill calling for match violence

Loyalists have distributed leaflets threatening an Ardoyne football team due to play in the heart of the Shankill this weekend.
The PSNI has confirmed it is investigating reports of intimidation in connection with a soccer game scheduled for Saturday.
The leaflets call for crowds to turn out at the game between 66th Old Boys and Ardoyne Working Men’s Club.
However the Ardoyne players have vowed to turn up despite the threats to their Junior Shield fixture.
The North Belfast News learned of the leaflets this week which sources claimed were distributed by well known loyalists over the weekend in the Shankill and Woodvale areas.
The Hammer Complex is on Agnes Street on the Shankill and there are safety concerns for the Ardoyne team travelling into the staunch loyalist district.
Ardoyne Manager Stephen Mailey said the team had been made aware of the threat and was offered a PSNI escort to the game, but players had refused. He said he had voiced his worries about the game’s venue.
“I was disappointed that an alternative venue hasn’t been organised.
“I contacted the County Antrim board about this several weeks ago to find out if there was anything in the rulebooks about changing to a neutral venue – and the answer was no, you can’t get round it.
“If you don’t turn up you can get thrown out of the competition, fined, and put out of the league for a year, maybe two.
“I put the situation to the lads and they took a vote. They came back and said they didn’t want a police escort, they just wanted to carry on and play the game.”
The PSNI said they were aware of the reports but had no copies of intimidating leaflets.
“PSNI officers have discussed the game with both teams and the match will be policed accordingly,” a spokesman added.
The Junior Shield, which AWMC won in 2004 is governed by the County Antrim board and the teams are half-way through the season.
Secretary Brian Dumigan said they would be treating the match as normal.
“We’ll have an IFA assessor Malcolm Moffitt there, which is normal procedure as well as the Chairman of the Junior Shield league, Michael Wilson,” Brian Dumigan said.
“It’s a football game. Soccer should be a sporting game and it will be treated as normal.
“You enter it with the full knowledge that you could be playing anywhere in County Antrim.
“We informed the police of the information, and we’re quite confident that those who enjoy the game of football will make it a sporting event.”
PUP Shankill councillor Hugh Smyth and Independent Frank McCoubrey both said they were unaware of the leaflets.
“I haven’t heard anything about it,” said the PUP man.
“I would be disappointed if that was the case. We have certainly no information that the match is under threat.”
No one was available for comment from 66th Old Boys.

Journalist:: Áine McEntee

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