Northern Ireland

East Belfast FC deny sectarian abuse against west Belfast club

East Belfast FC have denied claims that Immaculata FC players received sectarian abuse during a match on Saturday.
East Belfast FC have denied claims that Immaculata FC players received sectarian abuse during a match on Saturday.

An east Belfast football club has denied claims of sectarian abuse and assault against a west Belfast team.

East Belfast FC and Immaculata FC’s second teams played in East Park on Saturday for the Amateur League Division Three game, ending in a late 1-0 victory for the home side.

On Monday, Immaculata issued a statement “to record its disgust” at the treatment their players received, including numerous threats to one player.

“After East Belfast scored in the last minute, our players and staff were subjected to sectarian abuse with their supporters invading the pitch to taunt our players. Then, a series of altercations had broken out resulting in various players and staff being assaulted.”

East Belfast FC strongly denied the accusations and said the match actually ended with an offer of pizza for Immaculata players.

A club statement said the claims were “completely without foundation” and were part of a “tried and tested effort to create a victim narrative.”

A spokesperson for Immaculata FC told the Irish News said they were currently in the process of reporting the incident to the Northern Amateur Football League and the IFA, and questioned why the incident was not recorded in the referee's official report.

“We are only concerned for the safety of our players and management who are volunteers, our motivations are not aimed at East Belfast receiving punishment but we feel something needs to be done to prevent this ever happening again. We are imploring the league to send a representative to future games to ensure that an incident like this doesn't reoccur and no one is seriously injured."

East Belfast FC has previously faced allegations of being linked to the UVF.

In January, the SDLP councillor Séamas de Faoite tried to have £20,000 in funding deferred over concerns that individuals facing criminal charges could still be on the club's board.

East Belfast FC's former heard coach Stephen Matthews is currently being prosecuted in relation to a loyalist “show of strength” in 2021.

He also lost a High Court bid to prevent the Sunday Life naming him as the head of the East Belfast UVF.

The club previously described Mr de Faiote's comments as "spurious and false" while Matthews has consistently denied any links to the UVF or criminality.