No protests at Seaview urge Crusaders

The board of Crusaders Football Club has urged flag protestors not to demonstrate at their grounds in north Belfast, after a highly-anticipated Irish league match was postponed at the weekend.

Published 19/02/2013 12:00

Crusaders representatives apologised to fans for any inconvenience after Saturday's game with Cliftonville had to be called off for public safety reasons.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the club said that politics play no part in sport.

"We are requesting that our members, supporters, local residents, community groups, schools, churches, politicians, sporting bodies, and all other interested parties use all their influence to put an end to flag protests in the environs of our stadium," the statement said.

Police were attacked after they attempted to move a loyalist flag picket at the grounds where the club has been based for over 90 years.

It has been claimed some of the protestors also wanted to express concerns about the behaviour of football fans in the area in the past.

Three people were charged with public disorder and assault on police over the trouble.

On Monday, a senior PSNI chief defended the police handling of the demonstration amid accusations of heavy-handedness.

We would urge flag protestors and others to desist from engaging in flag protests in the proximity of our stadium.

Crusaders FC

The statement from the football club also emphasised that "extensive dialogue" with Skegoneil Avenue residents and others had been ongoing since November to ensure the game went ahead.

"At those meetings, the residents raised concerns in relation to Cliftonville fans travelling to games at Seaview and a protest was mooted," the statement said.

"However, after three further meetings and engagement with Cliftonville FC - and both clubs taking joint measures - the planned protest was called off at a meeting with residents which took place on Friday 8 February.

"A further meeting with residents, Crusaders FC and the PSNI took place at York Road barracks on Wednesday 13 February, when residents assured the PSNI there was no planned protest."

The club said that all parties kept to the agreement and that there was no protest by the Skegoneil Avenue residents.

They thanked residents, the HUBB community group, and Cliftonville FC for supporting efforts to stage Saturday's game.

"We now need the entire community to show their support for our football club at this very difficult time," the statement added.

The club board said the postponed match should be played at Seaview "at the earliest opportunity".

At the weekend, Cliftonville said they were disappointed by the match's postponement and thanked fans for their cooperation.

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