Cliftonville FC has announced that a player who was convicted of sending an indecent image of a child will not play for them tomorrow.
Cliftonville striker Jay Donnelly, 23, pleaded guilty in court this week to distributing an indecent image of a child.
A separate count of taking or making an indecent photograph was withdrawn.
Donnelly, of Ardilea Drive in the Ardoyne area of Belfast, will be sentenced in January. He had continued to play for the team since the allegations emerged. The offence happened in June 2016.
In a statement today, Cliftonville said: “As we are sure our supporters are aware, Cliftonville Football Club are dealing with a very sensitive and delicate matter in relation to Jay Donnelly.
“The Club Committee must always ensure that they act correctly when dealing with legal and employment matters and, as such, we have over the past few days been speaking to and availing of advice from all parties involved as well as support organisations.
“We have received legal advice not to comment on this matter further at this time. We assure all that this situation is extremely difficult to resolve and ask our supporters and indeed the media to please bear with us as we seek a resolution. Having spoken to all parties and Jay Donnelly, it has been decided Jay will not represent Cliftonville FC in tomorrow’s fixture with Dungannon Swifts.”
Two feminist groups, The Belfast Feminist Network and ‘Reclaim the Night’ had announced on Facebook that they would protest at the club on Saturday at 3pm for their match with Dungannon Swifts if Mr Donnelly was playing.
“We are completely disgusted by the actions of Cliftonville FC in continuing to play Donnelly since he was charged with such serious sexual crimes Donnelly was not suspended when he was charged,” they said.
The statement added: “If Jay Donnelly is playing on Saturday, there will be a protest organised by Belfast Feminist Network and Reclaim the Night outside the ground. We will continue to protest until Cliftonville FC take action to remove a convicted sex offender from their line-up.”
The Irish Football Association said it noted the conviction but was not making any further comment ahead of his sentencing. It was not for the IFA to advise whether he should play, it added.