The Irish Football Association has declined to say withther an Irish League player convicted of a child sex offence should play for his club this weekend.
This week it has emerged that Cliftonville striker Jay Donnelly, 23, pleaded guilty in court to distributing an indecent image of a child, and has been convicted of the charge.
A separate count of taking or making an indecent photograph was withdrawn.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 has continued to appear for Cliftonville since the allegations emerged. The offence happened in June 2016.
Cliftonville FC has declined to make any comment on the matter.
The Irish Football Association said it noted Mr Donnelly’s conviction but is not making any further comment ahead of his sentencing.
“It is not for us to advise whether Jay Donnelly will be playing at the weekend,” it added.
In a statement on Facebook, the Belfast Feminist Network and ‘Reclaim the Night’ described Donnelly’s behaviour as “reprehensible”. It added: “We hope that he receives a sentence befitting the nature of his crimes.
“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. His contract was renewed in May of this year, months after the PPS had decided to continue with the prosecution of this case. Even after he entered a guilty plea in court on Friday he was selected to play for the club on Saturday. This is a total insult to every victim of the kind of exploitative sexual crime that Donnelly has been convicted of.”
The group claimed that the club have been “more concerned with their own performance than the well-being of girls and young women within their community”.
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.”