'FAI searched us for anti-Delaney flags in Serbia' - soccer fans
Published 08/09/2016 | 02:30
Ireland supporters have accused the FAI of searching them for flags that made reference to chief executive John Delaney at this week's match in Serbia.
Two Irish fans claimed they were stopped and searched twice going into the game in Belgrade - firstly by Serbian officials, and secondly by the FAI's head of security, Joe McGlue.
The fans, who travelled over 2,500km to watch Ireland draw 2-2 with Serbia at the Red Star Stadium, say that Mr McGlue was made aware of an anti-Delaney flag that was brought to the city, and was attempting to stop it being unfurled by any supporters during the match.
The flag in question made reference to a quote from the FAI chief executive which referred to the League of Ireland being his "problem child".
It has a picture of Delaney above a number of photos of League of Ireland players and includes a hashtag in the corner saying 'Delaney Out'.
The flag's owner, Zeno Kelly - who spoke on RTÉ's 'Liveline' about the situation yesterday - was one of the supporters allegedly singled out by FAI security as he was going into the match - but he had no flag with him.
He said he was patted down by Serbian officials as he approached the ground, but as he was about to hand his ticket in to gain access to the stadium, Serbian officials were instructed to withhold his entry by the FAI official.
Mr Kelly said he was told they were checking for flares but he said it would have been impossible for him to have one as he'd already been checked.
He was eventually allowed in to the stadium.
The supporter had his FAI season ticket revoked in September 2015 - with the organisation saying he was "endorsing the use of flares" at the stadium on public forums.
However, he said he had never used a flare before and insisted he never intended on doing so.
His comments, made on the YBIG online forum, said that he "was told of a few lads that have a load of flares planning on setting" and "don't see how flares benefit the atmosphere, but I am fully supportive of all that do this as it will hopefully get the FAI fined".
"I had a flag in Belgrade, so that's how the whole thing happened," Mr Kelly said.
"I'd be one of the more vocal anti-Delaney supporters.
"I told him that I've never touched a flare in my whole life and I wouldn't have got through security there with one.
"I know all you wanted to know was did I have a flag and I don't have one," he added.
Another Irish fan, Tommy Shields (56) from Galway, said he had similar treatment as he was entering the stadium.
He said it was the first time he had ever seen the FAI check for flares at an away match before.
"My flag is a big flag and all it says is 'my teams, my passion' and it had a Galway United crest on a tricolour," Mr Shields said.
"I have never had an anti-John Delaney flag, although I would not be pro-John Delaney.
"Nearly everyone with a bag had their flags checked," he claimed.
The FAI did not wish to comment last night.