Northern Ireland

Belfast City Council to fund Celtic fanzone at pub for Linfield game

Windsor Park in Belfast
Image caption The match is due to be held at Windsor Park in Belfast on Friday

Belfast City Council is due to spend money on a fanzone for Celtic football fans at a pub in Belfast, as their team faces Irish league champions, Linfield.

Friday's Champions League qualifier was moved back from 11/12 July to avoid a clash with Orange Order commemorations.

Despite the postponement, Celtic opted to reject their Windsor Park ticket allocation due to fan safety concerns.

The Belfast Telegraph reports a funding proposal for the fanzone at the Devenish Complex was voted through.

It said the grant proposal for the facility in the main car park of the complex in Finaghy was made at last month's sitting of the West Belfast Police and Community Safety Partnership.

Sinn Féin councillor Matt Garrett, who tabled the proposal, said it had come from Féile an Phobail (West Belfast Festival) in conjunction with the Devenish Complex.

Image caption The Celtic fanzone will be set up in the car park of the Devenish Complex in Finaghy

He said the grant was supporting the "external part of the fanzone" and "not any of the commercial elements of the Devenish".

In a statement, Belfast City Council told BBC News NI that "funding has been agreed subject to conditions around the commercial element of the venture".


Meanwhile, a former Lord Mayor of Belfast has said that he believes the city is well prepared for the game.

The DUP's Brian Kingston was speaking at Windsor Park where the remaining tickets for the game went on sale on Thursday morning.

Image caption DUP's Brian Kingston said he believed Belfast could handle the rivalries of Celtic and Linfield fans

"We are now regularly hosting major international sporting events, so in terms of all the arrangements we've proven our track record," he said.

"But also, in terms of events where there is sporting rivalry, we've a good track record and I think we're maturing as a society and I think we can handle those rivalries."

He added: "I would have liked to have seen arrangements made where Celtic fans could have attended, but that was a decision of the Celtic board, they chose not to make tickets available.

"I understand there will be a fanzone provided at Devenish Arms in Belfast, but I would have liked [it if] both sets of fans could have watched the match together."

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers, who is from Carnlough, County Antrim, told the media in Belfast that he was "sad" that Celtic fans would not be at Windsor Park.

Image caption Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers said it was a "problem" that the safety of supporters was not assured

"This is a game obviously that the football club haven't been able to have assurances of the safety of fans, which is sad for me coming back to Northern Ireland, a new Northern Ireland.

"To not somehow ensure the supporters' safety is a problem for me."

His comments came after Celtic and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) appeared to have a difference of opinion on Wednesday as to why the Scottish champions opted to reject their ticket allocation.

'Extremely surprised'

The PSNI said "contrary to some reports, the decision of Celtic FC not to accept their allocation of 'away' tickets for the game against Linfield in Belfast was a decision taken solely by the football club and was not made by PSNI".

Celtic responded that they "were extremely surprised by this statement and the timing of the release".

"This is clearly not our understanding of the situation and we stand by our statement of 23rd June," the club added.

"We feel there is nothing to be gained by commenting further until the tie has been played."

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