The Community Relations Council today condemns the death threat on Neil Lennon which led to his failure to play for Northern Ireland in last night's football international against Cyprus. The episode highlights the need to strengthen efforts by soccer interests in Northern Ireland to tackle sectarianism.
Football is not free from sectarian threats and infiltration. The Community Relations Council has been funding the Irish Football Association's community relations strategy (Football For All) since 1998 and has recently awarded £130,000 of European Peace Funding to develop the strategy further. This will include community relations training for players, coaches, referees, clubs and supporters groups. This needs to be actively supported by all football interests.
"The threat to Neil Lennon in this case has come from outside football. The use of Celtic and Rangers shirts as markers of tribal and sectarian identity needs to be challenged by the NI supporters groups themselves and others with active support from the Clubs," said Ray Mullan, a Community Relations Council spokesman.
"Community Relations and cross-community efforts with youth groups in football also need to be increased. Football should not be allowed by the Clubs to be used as a means of sectarian identification".