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GRAND OLD TEAM: Belfast Celtic line out before a match in New York during their famous tour of the US in May 1949  GRAND OLD TEAM: Belfast Celtic line out before a match in New York during their famous tour of the US in May 1949 
 GRAND OLD TEAM: Belfast Celtic line out before a match in New York during their famous tour of the US in May 1949   GRAND OLD TEAM: Belfast Celtic line out before a match in New York during their famous tour of the US in May 1949 
By Michael Jackson


AN international football investment firm has announced exciting plans to resurrect the legendary Belfast Celtic.

Founded in 1891, the West Belfast club was one of the most successful in Irish football before it was brutally forced out of the game in 1949.

A sectarian riot during a match against rivals Linfield on St Stephen’s Day 1948 signalled the end for Belfast Celtic, who played their home games on the site of what is now the Park Centre on the Donegall Road. Linfield fans invaded the pitch at Windsor Park during the game and attacked Celtic players, forcing the club to withdraw from domestic football at the end of that season.

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The team played in a famous exhibition tour of North America during the summer of 1949, but sadly, they never played again. However, football investment advisors and partnership developers, Football Event Design (FED), have announced fledgling plans to resurrect ‘The Grand Old Team’ as an exhibition club.

Sean Graham bookmakers currently own the Belfast Celtic trademark and have confirmed FED’s approach. A spokesperson for Sean Graham bookmakers said: “We can confirm our ownership of the trademark and we will be asking them to provide details of the proposal”.

FED’s primary business is in arranging friendly football matches between teams from across the globe. The agency has arranged friendly matches for Glasgow Celtic and other household teams in the past, but they are also contracted to raise investment for various football clubs.

Speaking to the Andersonstown News about plans to resurrect Belfast Celtic, FED Sporting Advisor, Tony Bonnar, said that his firm were keen to invest in a club with historical roots.

“I have been in the football industry for a long time, but recently it has been mooted as a plan to have an exhibition club,” he said.

“If we were to do that it would be fantastic if we could also have it linked to a club that had an historic tradition – one that could be raised again.

“Because we’re based in Scotland we had looked at some Scottish and English teams that are now defunct, and we had considered a Belgian team too because my partner is the former secretary of Royal Antwerp FC.

“When we looked at the history of some of these teams it just didn’t seem to fit. Belfast Celtic have quite a strong traditional fan-base. The interesting thing is that they ended their previous term almost as an exhibition club. If they were to be resurrected it would probably be very useful to integrate them back into society and into a community that have kept their name alive.”

Plans are currently at an early stage, but Mr Bonnar is confident that FED’s goals can be achieved.

“We’re trying to feel where everybody is sitting at the moment – especially in the local community,” he said.

“We hope to make contact with the Belfast Celtic Society and we also need to check the availability of the trade mark. We don’t want to stand on anybody’s toes, so we’re hoping to make contact to see if this plan is viable.

“There is a business plan there, which we would then have to present it to our investors if using the Belfast Celtic name is viable.

“We have sufficient contacts within the footballing world to set up a number of exhibition matches and we can build from there. We would initially have to draw players who are out of contract and on loan, but we can still put together quite a talented team.

“My partner helped create the partnership between Belgian side Royal Antwerp and Manchester United, which meant that Royal Antwerp could attract young United players on loan, so we have plenty of experience in that realm. Getting a team on the pitch is critical, but I believe it is possible.”

Beyond the financial and logistical aspect of putting a new Belfast Celtic team on the pitch, Mr Bonnar also said that preserving the history the club is crucial to the project.

“The really important aspect of this football club is that the local community have managed to keep the name going,” he stated.

“It’s almost 70 years since the club disbanded. The museum and others have managed to preserve the history and it just shows us how valuable the club is to that community.

“We wouldn’t take this venture on board without their blessing. We have to be careful when we are dealing with historical and traditional values. If people would prefer to preserve the club as it is, then we would respect that.”


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