Former Northern Ireland footballer Warren Feeney has voiced his support for East Belfast FC following the removal of a temporary building from the car park of its pitch in Sydenham.
On Tuesday morning contractors directed by Belfast City Council, along with PSNI officers, arrived at the Tommy Patton Memorial Park in Inverary Avenue to remove a portacabin-type structure which did not have planning permission.
The club had been directed to remove the building but had sought a deadline extension until December 31, However, a council meeting on Monday night ratified a council committee’s earlier decision to remove it without delay.
A club spokesperson said: “The appalling invasion of our football ground...is perhaps the most patently obvious example of vindictive overkill that one is likely to see.”
Feeney, who played for a number of clubs in England and represented Northern Ireland 46 times, recorded a video message of support which was posted on the club’s Facebook page.
He said: “My son was fortunate enough to play for the under 9s and absolutely loved it, playing with a smile on his face.”
Feeney, who also had a spell as Linfield manager, said it was important that people support a protest being held at the ground at mid-day this Saturday.
“Please, please support the club. Everyone come out...and show what East Belfast is all about this Saturday, because I for one will be supporting at home in England.”
He added: “Whenever I come over, I always pop in to that club and see all my friends and the kids running around. You have my full support and I wish them all the best. And don’t take anything away from them because it is a great project with great people.”
Northern Ireland-born Labour MP Kate Hoey has also backed the club in the row with Belfast City Council.
“Having recently visited this football club to see the wonderful sporting opportunity given to so many youngsters from all backgrounds I am horrified by this action,” she tweeted.
Sinn Fein’s Mairead O’Donnell, who proposed the immediate removal at the committee meeting last month, said the club had failed to remove the building as requested.
Cllr O’Donnell said: “The People and Communities Committee then formally wrote to the club asking them to remove the structure...or request planning permission. The committee decided the club had been given adequate time to seek an alternative location or planning permission”.