Northern Ireland news

Special measures for historic Linfield Brandywell game

Saturday's game will be the first time for Linfield to play an Irish League fixture at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium since 1969. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

SATURDAY'S historic Linfield Irish League game at Derry's Ryan McBride Brandywell stadium will be marshalled by civilian stewards rather than police.

The move is one of a number of measures put in place for the fixture, the first time Linfield will play an Irish League game at the Derry ground in almost 50 years.

Linfield's majority Protestant fan base will be bussed into and out of the ground for the game against Institute FC. The kick-off for the game has also been brought forward to 1pm rather than the traditional 3pm start.

Institute have been playing their home games at the Brandywell since their own stadium at Drumahoe was destroyed in the August 2017 floods.

Linfield's last appearance at the Brandywell ground - a Setanta Cup game against Derry City - in 2012 ended in sectarian violence.

This Saturday's game will be Linfield's first 'league' fixture at the Derry venue since they played Derry City (then an Irish League club) in January 1969.

Institute vice chairman, Andrew Russell, said he believed Saturday's fixture would pass off without incident. He also said everyone involved was looking forward to a great occasion.

"A lot of hard work has been done over the last six months and everyone is looking forward to it; even things like the early kick-off helps reduce tensions," he said.

The Derry man said the game would be marshalled by stewards from Institute working closely with Derry City stewards rather than by the PSNI.

He added that all stakeholders have been working with the local community to ensure there would be no trouble.

"This is different from the last time Linfield came to the Brandywell," he said.

"They were playing Derry City and it was played in the dark and there was a nasty history.

"We're asking everyone to let's move away from the past."

PSNI Superintendent Gordon McCalmont said police would provide "an appropriate and proportionate policing operation."

"We have met with a number of local partner organisations and stakeholders ahead of the fixture and are anticipating that those attending will experience a safe and enjoyable match," he said.

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