Northern Ireland

Fixture scrapped after 'threat' to north Belfast soccer club

Shamrock FC was forced to cancel a fixture at the weekend after an online post
Shamrock FC was forced to cancel a fixture at the weekend after an online post Shamrock FC was forced to cancel a fixture at the weekend after an online post

A match involving a north Belfast-based soccer club has been cancelled after what has been described as online threats were made.

Players and officials at Ardoyne based Shamrock FC say the threats came after a training session in a loyalist area.

Club officials say that a loyalist band played a sectarian tune as members of the squad trained at Ballysillan Leisure Centre last week.

The club has been using the city council owned facilities while refurbishment work is carried out on its regular grounds at Marrowbone Millenium Park. 

Officials claim that after the incident a social media post made allegations linking a member of the club to the INLA, while another was accused of being a member of the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective, which opposed loyalist marches through the area.

The club had been due to play a pre-season friendly at Ballysillan on Saturday but the fixture was cancelled after the post, which has been described as threatening, urged unionists to attend.

"We are calling on unionist community to join us on Saturday at the Ballysillan Leisure Centre to give Shamrock FC a very warm welcome," the post read.

In a statement the club said a planned match on Saturday was cancelled when the opponents pulled out "because of the viral circulation of a social media threat".

The statement said the online post "is dangerous, inaccurate and untrue".

"Yet again, our club has been threatened with mass mobilisation and intimidation from using a so-called shared Belfast City Council facility.

"We just want to play football."

Shamrock FC thanked staff at Ballysillan Leisure Centre for their "for their ongoing co-operation and the football community for their kind messages of support".

The club said it has "initiated legal proceedings regarding these threats".

"So, understandably we as a club, will not make any further comment on this matter," it added.

Local independent councillor Paul McCusker said: "I have been in contact with the PSNI in relation to the social media posts regarding Shamrock FC as this was a deliberate threat to the club.

"Shamrock FC have provided opportunities for thousands of young people and support local charities in north Belfast, any threat to the club should be treated seriously by the police and football clubs should be able to play on all facilities across Belfast without any intimidation," he added.

Mr McCusker said the club has "worked hard in Ardoyne for many years and this won’t deter them from being a club that is part of the community and providing opportunities for young people in north Belfast".

"Those involved in threats and intimidation only want to divide communities, we need to promote the work of Shamrock FC and sporting clubs across the city that work hard every week," he added.

A PSNI spokeswoman said: "Police have not received any reports of this nature, however we are aware of commentary on social media and district officers are engaging with community representatives as a result".