Alliance criticises IFA sanction for Coalisland Athletic FC after players chanted IRA slogans

The Alliance Party says the Irish Football Association should have given a stronger sanction to Coalisland FC for a video showing players chanting IRA slogans on the team bus.

By Philip Bradfield
Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 4:18 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th May 2022, 9:58 am

Coalisland Athletic FC secured a 4-1 win over Bangor Young Men in the Junior Cup Final at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park on Monday May 2.

But a brief video clip of their celebrations, circulated on social media, shows around a dozen men dancing on a team bus, with some apparently chanting ‘Up the Ra’.

Yesterday an IFA spokesman said the Mid Ulster Football League referred a complaint to the IFA in relation to the conduct and that it had now fined the club.

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Alliance MP Stephen Farry said he utterly condemned the chanting and called on the club to apologise.

“Upon review of the content of the complaint, the disciplinary committee charged Coalisland Athletic FC with a breach of Article 17 of the Articles of Association (bringing the game into disrepute) and sanctioned the club with a £250 fine. “Coalisland Athletic FC accepted the charge and sanction offered,” he said.

Alliance Party Deputy Leader Stephen Farry also condemned the language used. In 2020 he criticised a new Linfield FC away strip which was likened to the colours of the UVF, which claimed over 500 lives during the Troubles.

“This may well be purely coincidental and unintentional, but I do think a rethink would be appropriate,” he said of the orange and purple colours at the time. “The similarity to UVF colours is too striking. Many other colours and designs are available. Why leave any ambiguity and risk offence to so many?”

He too condemned the language used in the Coalisland Athletic video clip, when it first appeared. “There is no place for the glorification or supporting of terrorism in sport or indeed wider society,” he said. “I utterly condemn this incident and call on those involved to apologise.”

The IFA has now sanctioned Coalisland Athletic FC.

The News Letter is not aware of the club having apologised or made any public statement.

Inviting him to comment on the sanction handed down, an Alliance party spokesman responded. “The actions of Coalisland Football Team were totally unacceptable. We acknowledge that the Irish FA have imposed a disciplinary sanction. However, we feel that this should have been more robust,” she said.

DUP MLA Keith Buchanan has also slammed the sanction. He said: “This sanction sends out the wrong message. According to the IFA’s code of conduct, £250 is the minimum sanction for a junior club offending the ‘dignity of a person or group of persons through contemptuous, discriminatory or denigratory words or actions concerning race, colour, language, religion or origin’.

“To sing pro-PIRA songs is grossly offensive to people in my constituency who were injured at the hands of the PIRA just because of their religion.” 

The News Letter understands that a £250 fine is quite high in terms of what is normally handed down to a small amateur football club operating at junior level - and that fines are often a lot lower for amateur clubs. It is understood Coalisland FC will have been told a repeat offence will merit a much larger fine or sanction.

However, on May 4 the News Letter published a list of sample offences and sanctions available from the IFA Disciplinary Code - many of which were much more severe than given to Coalsialdn FC. Some of the sanctions listed in the code - but not used on this occasion - include reprimands, six-month or ten match suspensions and the deduction of points.

The code says a reprimand, suspension or fine may be issued in the case of “inappropriate comments or content in the media or social media”.

A player or official who “publicly incites others to hatred or violence” will be given a minimum six-month suspension and £200 fine. And anyone who offends the dignity of a person or group of persons through “contemptuous, discriminatory or denigratory words or actions concerning race, colour, language, religion or origin” shall be suspended for a minimum of 10 matches. A fine shall also be imposed. Where several persons from the same club simultaneously breach the code, the team concerned may be deducted three points, it adds.

The IFA was invited to respond to the criticism from the DUP and Alliance Party.

Sinn Fein, the SDLP and UUP were also invited to comment on the sanction.