Linfield Football Club wishes to provide our Members, supporters and the wider club family with an update following yesterday’s news that the IFA Disciplinary Committee has imposed a fresh series of sanctions upon us following the deeply regrettable incidents at Coleraine on 16th February.

You will be aware that the club has received another substantial financial penalty, that the Kop Stand is to be closed for the upcoming NIFL Premiership match against Newry City, and, most worryingly, that no Linfield supporters will be permitted to attend our first two home games following the split.

While we do not dispute what occurred at Coleraine, or the seriousness of those offences, the club has raised a challenge with regard to the excessive nature of the sanctions imposed on this occasion. It is our very strong view that the exceptionally punitive nature of the two-match home stadium ban is deeply unfair to the vast majority of our supporters who find this continuing misbehaviour of a small number of misguided individuals to be as reprehensible as we do. We also believe that imposing a punishment of this nature at such a key stage of the league season has serious implications for the sporting integrity of the competition.

Linfield will provide a further update to our supporters when we can advise again on the outcome of this disciplinary challenge.

It is clear that the root cause of this serious problem lies with the group who identify themselves as “Blue Unity” and those who associate with them. The club has faced a considerable number of disciplinary charges as a result of this group’s continuing misbehaviour over the last few seasons that has led to significant financial penalties, tens of thousands of pounds which could otherwise have been invested in our team.

Linfield firmly believes that a vibrant and positive crowd atmosphere is beneficial both for the team on the pitch and for the local sport as a whole. Various representatives from the club have engaged with this group since its formation and sought to guide them in terms of acceptable behaviours which can benefit the team and the club.  No-one can say, however, that repeat criminality, the use of illegal pyrotechnics, and foul discriminatory chants and songs are in any way positive or encouraging. Those who seem to be advising this group and writing their statements for them might do well to bear that in mind. This is neither supporting the team nor “the regime”.

Blue Unity are not welcome at Windsor Park or at any away games. They do not represent Linfield Football Club and our proud traditions of sportsmanship and fair play. We will no longer attempt to engage with them on any basis. We have worked with the Police Service of Northern Ireland and spent in the region of £100,000 each season on private security costs. That has not worked. We have constructed social media campaigns, video messaging and asked restorative justice practitioners to intervene. That has not worked. We will continue to work closely with the PSNI to identify those involved in this reprehensible behaviour and hopefully prosecutions and lifetime football bans will follow.

Linfield concludes this statement by asking the IFA and NIFL: what more can we possibly do here? How can we be liable for the conduct of supporters at matches outside our direct control? What good does repeatedly fining us and punishing our genuine, loyal supporters do when we have made all reasonable efforts to eliminate this problem? How can we stop this from happening when the police cannot? How can this punishment act as a deterrent when this group apparently cannot and will not be spoken to and do not respond to any attempt to reason with them?

Stay Blue or Stay Away.