In pictures: Flag protest cancels match

A match at Seaview football ground was called off on Saturday due to a flag protest.

Many fans were not able to get into the ground for the Crusaders match against Cliftonville and the game was called off after police, who tried to move protestors on, were attacked with bottles and other missiles.

As of around 3.30pm on Saturday police had made three arrests.

In a statement police said they had been involved in planning arrangements around the match for a number of weeks, along with both football clubs and local residents groups.

The statement said: “All sides had agreed that the match should go ahead peacefully.”

But after a group involved in a 40-minute white line protest outside the grounds refused to move from the area to let fans gain entry to the grounds, police said they had to make efforts to “move the protest”.

Trouble then broke out, with bottles and other missiles being thrown at officers.

Police said: “A number of protestors began to violently resist the police and officers were attacked with bottles and other missiles.

“Upon learning of the public disorder both clubs advised police that the game would not proceed. This is a regrettable outcome for the clubs, the many genuine fans who wanted to watch the match and indeed the wider North Belfast community.

“The area is now calm but tense and Police continue to assist fans to leave the ground safely.”

Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said the fact the game had to be called off was disappointing.

“It is disappointing when a football game is abandoned, particularly so when it is for reasons totally unconnected with sport,” she said. “The flag protest which forced the cancellation of this match has nothing to do with football.

“The result is frustration for players, staff, fans and all those who had prepared for the game today. Now, instead of reflecting on a derby game featuring the top two teams in the league, we are looking back at a disheartening afternoon for everyone connected with the clubs.

“Crusaders and Cliftonville, while rivals on the pitch, have forged many links in recent years and I trust the events of today will not derail those efforts.

“I hope the game will be rescheduled and go ahead without incident at a later date.”