To the many people trying to make local soccer into a profitable, enjoyable and family-friendly spectacle, tonight’s first ever live broadcast of an Irish League game on Sky Sports will be viewed as an important step forward. The game ended with a 2-2 draw between Linfield and Cliftonville.
Yet I was struck by a part of the BBC Radio Ulster Sports bulletin tonight which highlighted how Cliftonville FC were warning fans on their website that a ‘zero tolerance’ approach would be taken against any supporter bringing the club into disrepute through bad behaviour on the night.
The language used in the website message was unequivocal:”Any individual – through physical or verbal means – causing damage to the club and its reputation will be identified, removed from the ground and banned for life from Solitude.”
But surely Cliftonville- along with the other clubs in the Irish League- should be adopting the same ‘zero tolerance’ approach to thuggish/ sectarian behaviour regardless of the presence of the Sky camera crews, particularly if the local clubs are serious about attracting families through the turnstiles of local stadia every weekend.