Celtic’s legion of travelling fans will not be issued with tickets for the club’s Champions League qualifier in Belfast should Linfield overcome La Fiorita of San Marino to progress.
Thousands of Celtic supporters were already making provisional arrangements to get to Windsor Park for what would be an impassioned encounter with the Belfast Blues – which is now scheduled to take place on July 14.
A statement posted on the Celtic FC website on Friday afternoon (see below) said: “The safety and security of all Celtic supporters travelling and attending matches is of paramount importance to the Club.”
The controversial decision - taken following a meeting on Thursday morning between representatives of Linfield and Celtic and senior PSNI officers - has provoked an angry backlash from many fans of the Scottish champions.
UEFA had directed that all of the second qualifying round first leg ties should be played on either July 11 or July 12, but it is understood the body has no objection to the new arrangements.
The prospect of thousands of Celtic fans travelling to Belfast for a match at the height of the annual Orange Order celebrations would have been a nightmare for police and security officials.
Linfield’s first game against La Fiorita is scheduled to take place next Wednesday (28th) with the second leg in San Marino on July 4.
• Celtic FC statement in full:
“Earlier this week, Celtic were drawn against Linfield or La Fiorita of San Marino to open our UEFA Champions League qualifying campaign, with the away leg due to be played first, on 11 or 12 July, and the home leg to be played at Celtic Park on 18 or 19 July.
Following security concerns raised by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), Celtic has taken part in discussions with Linfield and the PSNI over recent days. While there can be an option to reverse the fixtures if both clubs agree, during discussions, Linfield made it clear that they did not wish to reverse the tie and they wanted play their home leg first.
In addition, as is often the case in football, Celtic’s football management team wished to play our away leg first so that we could benefit from the advantage of playing the second leg at home in front of our supporters at Celtic Park for this crucial European tie.
Following the discussions, it was agreed among the clubs and PSNI and has now been confirmed with UEFA that, should Linfield progress to the Second Qualifying Round, Celtic’s UEFA Champions League match against Linfield will take place at Windsor Park on Friday, July 14, with a 5pm kick-off.
No tickets will be available for Celtic supporters for the match. The safety and security of all Celtic supporters travelling and attending matches is of paramount importance to the Club.
Should La Fiorita of San Marino qualify for the next round, the first leg match would take place on 11 or 12 July.
Regardless of opposition, Celtic’s home leg of this qualifying round will take place at Celtic Park on Wednesday, July 19, 2017, and entry to this first home European qualifier will once again be included as part of the 2017/18 Season Ticket.
If the tie against Linfield proceeds, it will not affect the friendly match between Celtic and Lyon at Celtic Park on 15 July – more information on this match will follow as soon as possible.”