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By Staff Reporter

The North Belfast News has learned that many Cliftonville fans are to boycott the St Stephen’s Day fixture with Crusaders after the club joined with the PSNI in asking them not to walk to Seaview.

But unlike last year, it is understood others will abide by the ruling and take official buses and private vehicles to the game.

Following talks with the PSNI and Crusaders after last year’s game at Seaview had to be cancelled due to a loyalist protest, Cliftonville said they would be abiding by the PSNI’s advice that fans shouldn’t walk to the game.

In February, residents living close to Seaview protested against plans for Cliftonville fans to walk down Skegoniell Ave, accusing them of attacking cars when they used the route before – something the fans deny.

To prevent this Crusaders stewards agreed to escort the fans to the game, but the residents joined with flag protesters to block the stadium and the game was called off. At that time loyalist protester Willie Frazer told the NBN that some people were simply opposed to having nationalists in the area.

Fans had indicated they wanted to walk down to Seaview this St Stephen’s Day but they have been told that this will not be facilitated. One supporters’ club member, who didn’t want to be identified, said fans were split on the ruling.

“The cops are saying nobody can walk down so the supporters clubs aren’t running any buses. After Bangor it shows we are just sitting ducks on buses and people I am talking to aren’t keen on repeating that experience.”

The fan was speaking after a Cliftonville fan bus was attacked by loyalists as it left Clandeboye Park following a League Cup fixture with Ards FC last Tuesday (December 16).

The fan said he expected a reduced support on December 26.

“There is a split though, with about half the people I ask saying they are going to go along. At a usual St Stephen’s Day game we would bring around 1200 people, if there are 500 there this year I would be very surprised.”

Some fans have said they will attempt to walk the short distance to Seaview. Cliftonville have advised against this however and in a statement, appealed to fans to use transport.

“The previous advice from the PSNI, that they currently envisage that walking to and from the stadium will not be feasible, remains the same and we would strongly advise that no attempt is made to do so. Supporters buses will depart from Solitude and the Glenpark at 2pm.”

A PSNI spokesman added. “Police would advise fans making their way to the match to adhere to the arrangements that have been finalised by both clubs and make full use of the facilities provided which include shuttle buses and car parking areas.”


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