Belfast side Linfield 'bemused' as game postponed 24 hours for visit of President Biden

Belfast side Linfield 'bemused' as game postponed 24 hours for visit of President Biden

HE MAY be the leader of the free world, but the visit of US President Joe Biden to Ireland has irked some after it resulted in a football game being delayed by a day.

In fact, one politician has claimed the clash between the 'Big Two' of Linfield and Glentoran is more interesting 'than anything the US President says'.

Linfield, one of the club's involved in the rearranged fixture, say they have 'concerns' following the decision.

Operational pressures

President Biden is due to visit Ireland after Easter to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and is expected to head to Belfast during the five-day trip.

Accommodating a visit from the leader of a global superpower will no doubt provide a logistical challenge for police.

As such, following consultation between the PSNI and Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL), Linfield's crucial clash with arch rivals Glentoran has been moved back 24 hours to Wednesday, April 12.

President Biden is expected to visit Ireland for five days after easter (Image: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

However, the Windsor Park side say the decision has left them 'bemused' as home games involving Belfast sides Cliftonville and Crusaders will go ahead as planned on Easter Tuesday.

"Linfield can confirm that we received correspondence from NIFL on Wednesday evening suggesting that our home fixture v Glentoran would be moved from Easter Tuesday, due to a PSNI decision relating to operational pressures, as a result of the upcoming US Presidential visit," read a statement from the Blues.

"While we accept that this decision may be necessary, given policing levels, we have concerns at the impact this short notice change will have on our supporters.

"Furthermore, we were bemused that two other NIFL fixtures have been given permission to go ahead in North Belfast, under three miles from Windsor Park."

Linfield's home ground Windsor Park (Image: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

The club said that in the interests of fairness and sporting integrity, it suggested that all NIFL games scheduled for Easter Tuesday should be postponed until Tuesday, April 18.

However, they added that they were not afforded the chance to have face-to-face discussions with the police or NIFL chiefs.

The PSNI had originally wanted all three fixtures set for Belfast on Easter Tuesday to be postponed.

However, following further discussions with the NIFL and revised risk assessments, Crusaders v Coleraine at Seaview and Cliftonville v Larne at Solitude will go ahead as planned.

'Linfield treated differently'

Secretary of the TUV party, Ron McDowell, backed reigning champions Linfield, downplaying the president's visit as 'media hype'.

"Once again it seems that Linfield are to be treated differently to all other NIFL teams,” said McDowell.

"A match scheduled for Easter Tuesday has now been moved to accommodate a visit from President Biden.

"The NIFL and PSNI have stated that due to operational commitments they cannot provide the manpower to oversee the Linfield match, however they have been able to find the manpower to oversee the two other matches being played within a three-mile radius of Windsor Park.

"The PSNI and NIFL have so far refused to afford Linfield the opportunity to discuss this issue which will prove a problem to the team and fans alike.

Linfield are managed by former Northern Ireland striker David Healy (Image: David Rogers/Getty Images)

"You won't know if from the media hype but frankly I expect there are many people who will be much more interested in the football than anything the US President says."

Linfield, managed by Northern Ireland's all-time leading scorer David Healy, are currently second in the NIFL table, five points behind leaders Larne with five games left to play.

While his itinerary has not been officially released, it is believed President Biden will head to Northern Ireland on April 11, before spending four days in the Republic.

He is, unsurprisingly, not expected to take in any Irish league games during his visit.