Irish Premiership clash between Crusaders and Cliftonville cancelled due to protest

The top of the table clash between North Belfast rivals Crusaders and Cliftonville was called off due to loyalist protests taking place outside the stadium
An Irish Premiership fixture between Crusaders and Cliftonville had to be cancelled on Saturday February 16 due to protests occurring outside the stadium.

North Belfast rivals Crusaders and Cliftonville were due to contest a top-of-the-table clash at Seaview on Saturday but the clubs opted to postpone the game because safety concerns. Trouble arose during the protests, and three people were subsequently arrested.

Loyalists have been protesting against a decision to restrict the flying of the Union Flag at Belfast City Hall since December 2012 and staged a 'white-line' protest outside the stadium prior to the game, causing disruptions.

Speaking to the BBC, Cliftonville manager Tommy Breslin explained that it was unfortunate that the game had to be called off after the hours of preparation put into the game by both clubs.

"Win, lose or draw, we were just here for a game of football on a Saturday afternoon," he said. "The clubs have co-operated closely in recent years and this will just bring them closer together again."

Crusaders chairman Stephen Bell described the incident as a "sad day for football", while Crues manager Stephen Baxter admitted that he was only aware that there might have been a problem days before the game.

"Both chairman have been working tirelessly behind the scenes," said Baxter. "And I wasn't even aware of this until Thursday evening that there might be a small problem."

Irish League Cup winners Cliftonville currently hold a 12 point advantage at the top of the Irish Premiership over Crusaders, who have a game in hand.