Celtic won’t take up Linfield ticket allocation
‘Safety and security of all Celtic supporters travelling and attending matches is paramount’
Celtic fans will not be able to get tickets for the potential meeting of Linfield and the Scottish champions at Windsor Park.
Celtic have confirmed that they will not take their allocation of tickets for their Champions League qualifying game at Windsor Park, in the event that Linfield beat La Fiorita of San Marino to set up a first ever meeting between the two sides next month.
The Scots would have been entitled to around 900 tickets for their supporters plus 200 for VIPs, club officials and sponsors. But after advice from the PSNI was considered at a board meeting on Thursday evening, the club has confirmed that it will not be putting any tickets on sale to its supporters.
The decision has prompted predicable exchanges on social media with Linfield and Rangers fans taunting Celtic supporters, some of whom have in turn expressed frustration that they will not be able to follow their team.
The part played by the PSNI in the decision making process was made fairly apparent by both the club and the PSNI itself. The game had already been moved to July 14th from the 11th and scheduled to kick-off at 5pm due to the concerns of the police.
“Following security concerns raised by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), Celtic has taken part in discussions with Linfield and the PSNI over recent days,” said the club in its statement.
“While there can be an option to reverse the fixtures if both clubs agree, during discussions, Linfield made it clear that they did not wish to reverse the tie and they wanted play their home leg first.
As furious as many are about Celtic's decision not to take tickets for Linfield, what a kick in the teeth it must be to Irish based fans...— Paul Wilcox (@Paul92W) June 23, 2017
Travel to Glasgow to watch Celtic 10 plus times a season from Belfast, Celtic drew to play 3 miles away from my front door, Not able to go?— Criostoir O'Corrain (@egCriostoir) June 23, 2017
“In addition, as is often the case in football, Celtic’s football management team wished to play our away leg first so that we could benefit from the advantage of playing the second leg at home in front of our supporters at Celtic Park for this crucial European tie.
“Following the discussions, it was agreed among the clubs and PSNI and has now been confirmed with Uefa that, should Linfield progress to the second qualifying round, Celtic’s Uefa Champions League match against Linfield will take place at Windsor Park on Friday, July 14th, with a 5pm kick-off.
“No tickets will be available for Celtic supporters for the match. The safety and security of all Celtic supporters travelling and attending matches is of paramount importance to the club.”
That position has clearly caused deep frustration and some anger amongst the club’s own fans who believe that the sectarian nature of the marching season is essentially the reason they are being kept away.
Superintendent Norman Haslett of the PSNI certainly acknowledged that the game’s proximity to the “12th” remains a key consideration. “Police have been in close contact with representatives from both Linfield and Celtic football clubs due to the possibility of a Belfast fixture between the two clubs in July,” he said.
“Public safety concerns surrounding the fixture and the impact on the greater Belfast area over the Twelfth period have featured strongly in our considerations and discussions. I can confirm that all parties have now reached agreement on the arrangements for the match, should it proceed.”
Safety would not have been quite so great a concern had Linfeild agreed to switch the order of the ties, but the club was concerned that the value of the home game would have been hugely undermined had they taken the risk of losing heavily in Glasgow first.
The club expects to make in excess of £1 million from the game as things stand between gate receipts, commercial revenues and TV with three major broadcasters reported to have expressed a firm interest in acquiring rights to the game.
In his club’s statement, Linfield chairman Roy McGivern simply thanked all of the parties involved in the talks for ensuring that the game can go ahead.