Friday 15 December 2017

'Banned for life' - Linfield vow to ban louts who marred Celtic game as club faces UEFA fine

14 July 2017; Leigh Griffiths of Celtic is shown a yellow card after having missiles thrown at him during the UEFA Champions League Second Qualifying Round First Leg match between Linfield and Glasgow Celtic at the National Football Stadium in Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
14 July 2017; Leigh Griffiths of Celtic is shown a yellow card after having missiles thrown at him during the UEFA Champions League Second Qualifying Round First Leg match between Linfield and Glasgow Celtic at the National Football Stadium in Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Aaron Tinney

Thugs who hurled missiles at Celtic players during the Champions League clash will be identified using television footage and banned for life from Linfield's matches, the club's chairman has vowed.

Roy McGivern said individuals who threw a bottle at Leigh Griffiths, as well as lighters and coins, at Windsor Park on Friday will all be traced using video footage taken at the game.

A source said the Linfield chairman wanted the guilty Blues fans weeded out before the team travel to Glasgow for their second leg Champions League match against the Hoops.

Dozens of pictures of a fan have been circulated across social media sites since Friday when a Buckfast bottle was chucked at Celtic striker Griffiths while he took a corner yards from Linfield fans.

One image shows a man with a bottle protruding from his back pocket, while other stills from videos taken by fans show the same person apparently throwing it.

Celtic's new signing Jonny Hayes was also targeted by missile-throwing Linfield supporters, while others chanted sectarian abuse at the visiting players during the game.

Mr McGivern stepped in during the match to plead with the thugs behind the trouble in the South Stand to stop targeting Celtic's players.

In an interview yesterday, he stressed that it was a "small minority" who committed the offences, and said they were not worthy of being called Linfield supporters.

Mr McGivern met with the Windsor Park stadium safety team after the game, and said some Linfield fans were provoked by Celtic fans "making gestures".

Mr McGivern also said Celtic needed to "deal with other incidents" during the match, which included Griffiths tying a Celtic scarf around a goalpost, prompting a home fan to invade the pitch and head for the striker before he was hauled off by PSNI officers.

Former DUP MLA Sammy Douglas, who was in the grandstand where some of the incidents took place, said the atmosphere at the game reminded him of Old Firm clashes between Rangers and Celtic.

He said supporters on both sides had been trying to antagonise each other during the match, and that a Starry Plough flag - associated with the INLA - had been waved at home supporters.

Mr Douglas said: "The missile-throwing louts are not welcome at Windsor Park and I hope the club are able to identify and deal with them in the appropriate manner.

"I would like to pay tribute to the Linfield chairman Roy McGivern who personally approached the Linfield support and helped to calm the situation.

"I also think it is important to keep things in context and acknowledge that there were only a very small number of misbehaving fans in a crowd of almost 10,000."

However, the threat of a heavy Uefa fine - possibly up to €30,000 - for the thugs' behaviour now looms over the Blues and could put a significant dent in the payday generated for the club by the European tie.

Linfield have issued a statement urging fans to be on their best behaviour for the return game at Celtic Park on Wednesday.

The instructions to fans stress that security firm Eventsec and club stewards will be on each of the three coaches going to Glasgow from Northern Ireland. Alcohol is banned from the buses.

The statement adds: "It is vital that all supporters co-operate with the stewards and authorities at all times during travel to and from Celtic Park.

"Supporters are reminded that alcohol is not permitted on buses in Scotland.

"There will be a large police presence in the stadium (as well as the club and Eventsec stewards) and any offensive chanting or the use of pyrotechnics will be severely dealt with.

"Linfield supporters will be held back for a period after the game prior to the return coach journey to Cairnryan.

"Have a safe and enjoyable trip to Glasgow and at all times do nothing to harm or damage the name of the club you are supporting."

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