News broke on Saturday that Dundalk had been fined €18,000 by UEFA due to fans displaying a Palestinian flag during a Europa League qualifier against Hajduk Split at Oriel Park last month.
The matter was discussed on Soccer Republic on Monday night with Richie Sadlier being particularly vocal on the matter. Dundalk released a statement saying "This situation arose because of the refusal of certain individuals to listen to our appeals at the Hajduk Split match to refrain from doing anything that may damage the club." Sadlier condemned these individuals, telling Dave Barry at one point to "stop calling them supporters".
He also said:
"It would be great thing if these people were identified, I presume everyone in Dundalk knows exactly who we're talking about, the club will know who we're talking about. It would be a great thing if they were rounded up and escorted out of the games and just kept out of football for good."
Here's that Dundalk statement in full:
Dundalk Football Club would like to thank the many supporters who have contacted the club with supportive messages in the last three days. We share their deep concern over this serious incident.
As we stated on Saturday, we did not wish to comment on this matter until after we have received the full written judgement from UEFA. However, due to the unprecedented amount of interest in this issue we feel we need to make this statement.
We strongly encourage all Dundalk supporters to please allow the club to deal with this matter in the correct manner. We are concerned that any statement from any organisation that claims to represent any group of Dundalk supporters may be misinterpreted and could make this situation worse. In particular, we are concerned at any supporter(s) making direct contact with UEFA.
This situation arose because of the refusal of certain individuals to listen to our appeals at the Hajduk Split match to refrain from doing anything that may damage the club. Given that our original appeals were ignored, we would ask these individuals to listen to us now. Please allow us to deal with this matter without the fear that any supporter(s) may do something that could potentially make this worse or damage our chances of a successful appeal.
We share the concern of Dundalk supporters who fear that they are being misrepresented by a small group of individuals, a number of whom have been involved in other issues that have cost the club a lot of money in fines and who have attempted to create divisions between the club and supporters.
We are aware that this small group of people do not speak for Dundalk supporters and have no right to act on their behalf. We also appreciate that a number of fans who have been involved with this group have done so in good faith and have done nothing wrong. A number of supporters who were involved with this group are now distancing themselves from the ringleaders that have been causing on-going problems in Oriel Park.
From Dundalk FC’s point of view, we are distressed that these individuals are embroiling the club with the tragic situation in Gaza. We are football club, a non-political organisation, and we are doing our best to run the club to the best of our ability. Recently during the local elections, we refused to allow any political party to advertise in Oriel Park. However, we are aware that the club does not exist in a vacuum were outside issues have no impact on us all. Despite this, we are shocked that we are releasing a statement that has any connection with this tragic issue.
This long statement is an attempt to explain our problem right now. On one side we are being punished by UEFA. Dundalk FC do not believe that these flags are “political”, “inappropriate” or “illicit”. However, the debate on whether sport and politics is very complex and not one that we feel particularly qualified to make a judgement on. However, UEFA have their rules on this matter. We simply had no choice whatsoever but to respect the wishes of the UEFA delegate on the night who explained to us that due to the conflict that either Palestinian or Israeli flags have a political context and therefore should be removed immediately.
On the other side, we have been punished by the actions of a small group of individuals who ignored our appeals after the serious consequences of these actions were outlined to us by the UEFA delegate.
In fact, the match came within seven minutes of not even kicking-off and then, in the second-half, the game was very nearly stopped after the flags were displayed again on a number of occasions. This was after club officials explained the very serious ramifications of the use of these flags to these individuals. These individuals wilfully and deliberately ignored our appeals and we now find ourselves in this very difficult situation.
A number of supporters have contacted us to disassociate themselves from this group. We agree with the Dundalk supporters who have contacted us to encourage us to revisit our ground regulations and code of conduct to supporters. This has gone far enough.
The club has a lot of work to do in many areas. This issue is serving as a distraction from the many matters that the club’s volunteers and officials are required to deal with on a daily basis. It is now two years since the takeover of the club and we have come a long way and are enjoying a magnificent season. Yet despite our success, a small group of supporters have been continuously trying to undermine us and drive a wedge between the club and the supporters.
The club will await the written verdict from UEFA and then discuss our options with legal advisors. That is all we can do at this stage.
This issue may not be resolved any time soon. So, in the meantime, we want all Dundalk supporters to focus all of your attention on Friday’s match with Bohemians and getting behind our wonderfully dedicated players and staff as we face another tough match.