Portadown Football Club has said the youth player caught up in the social media storm over a cruel tweet about Oscar Knox deserves “a second chance”.
They also said they would be taking part in a rehabilitation programme for the young player, Michael Bunting.
There was an angry reaction when Bunting and another teenager posted vile messages about Oscar, who died at the age of five following a battle against cancer.
But in a statement issued on Saturday evening Portadown said the football club and Portadown Youth would partake in a “programme of rehabilitation” for Bunting.
“Following the issuing of statements from Michael’s school and family in the aftermath of the social media frenzy created last week by Michael’s cruel words about the death of young Oscar Knox, Portadown Football Club would like to add the following.
“Once again, our first thoughts are with the Knox family who have borne this ordeal with dignity and fortitude throughout. Young Oscar has left an indelible legacy behind, which will remain in people’s hearts and minds forever.
“Michael and his family now have to face the fallout from his actions, and help rebuild this young lad’s life. We believe he deserves a second chance, and as such, Portadown FC and Portadown Youth will fully partake in a programme of rehabilitation for Michael, along with his school and other sporting bodies, with a view to re-integrating him back into society.
“We, as a club, have a duty of care to all our young players, and will not shirk our responsibilities just because it’s a difficult case.”
Portadown are preparing a “social media code of conduct for all players in our under age groups” and will provide the information and education to “enable them to make better decisions in this area of communications”.
“We would like to thank the officials and coaches of Portadown Youth for their integrity and unqualified support. Michael remains suspended from the club.”