Police have asked those ‘intent on only causing trouble’ at a junior soccer cup final to stay away.
The warning came on the Craigavon PSNI Facebook page ahead of this Friday night’s Alexandra Cup Final at Loughgall between rival Portadown clubs Ballyoran FC and Rectory Rangers.
Police have warned they will be there to arrest those who show any intent to ‘mar the game’ and, if needed, will post images of those involved in any potential disorder to social media to ask the public to identify them through the Op Exposure initiative.
The police post said, “In recent times, we’ve had several incredibly successful football matches in our district. Big games which have passed without incident, remembered for what happened on the pitch rather than off.
“Yes, there have been some issues, most recently in Newry involving a local club, and also earlier on in the season, but those have been the exception, rather than the rule, and it has been heartening to see clubs and supporters alike working together to root out those who would bring their clubs name into disrepute.
“The door knocks may not yet have happened for all, but there is no one outstanding from any of the football related violence that we are yet to identify.”
They went on, “This Friday sees another potential biggy, with Ballyoran FC v Rectory Rangers in the Alexandra Cup Final at Loughgall FC. Aside from being a cup final, and potentially the biggest game of the season for both sets of players, it’s a huge local rivalry.
“We’re aware already that there are local contingents from both sides coming to support their teams, which is great. We are also aware that, as with every game, there are some who have no more interest in football than they do the man on the moon, who will hang on to the fringes intent on only causing trouble.
“We call on both clubs and sets of supporters to do all they can to not just distance themselves from, but actively discourage anyone from attending on Friday night who does not have football as their focus.
“We will be in Loughgall on Friday night, looking after the football and other events that are taking place this weekend, and will be doing everything we can to make sure there is minimum disruption to the community, and a great game for all to remember.
“If you are heading to the game, enjoy it. It should be a great match. Please be considerate to neighbours when it comes to parking, and follow the direction of any of us you see.
“If you are intent on trouble, know this: We will be there. If you show an intent to mar the game with violence or disorder, you will be arrested. In every case that violence comes from a match we will push, where appropriate, for a banning order.
“We will have evidence gathering in place so if you manage to slip the net, we’ll get you in the long grass.
“If we need Op Exposure, the community will help us. They haven’t failed so far, and for football hooligans, they’re highly unlikely to fail ever. If you end up on bail, we will push for conditions which will prevent you from being involved in a crowd environment to involve yourself in further disorder, and therefore may significantly hamper your ability to enjoy the summer.
“We can’t be more clear than that. Football should be the winner here, and we’ll do everything we can to keep the game what it should be for the real fans out there.”