Cliftonville Football Club has released a statement condemning the behaviour of star striker Jay Donnelly following his sentencing for sharing an indecent photograph of a child.
Donnelly, 23, of Ardilea Drive in Belfast, was handed a four month prison sentence on Thursday, but released on bail pending an appeal.
Supporters of the club have criticised Cliftonville’s response to the sentencing and called for the club to “act swiftly” and begin full disciplinary proceedings against the player.
Cliftonville Football Club dropped Donnelly as a player in November after he was convicted of the charge, however he remains a member.
In a statement released on Friday, a spokesperson said the club was aware of comments regarding the club’s position on the Jay Donnelly case.
“We wish to reiterate, as we said in our statement of December 1, that the Club does not condone such behaviour and recognises the impact that this has had on the victim and her family.
“We condemn such actions without question. We previously stated that the Club will not shirk its responsibilities to our members, supporters and the wider community and that remains the case.
“The Club is currently receiving legal advice and, when we are in a clear position to act, the Club will do so, responsibly and within the requirements of employment law.
“To our fans, we understand this has been a turbulent period on and off the pitch and our supporters, who remain at the heart of our Club, have a right to receive communications through our official channels.”
The club asked for supporters’ patience and continued support ahead of the club fixture with Ards on Saturday and stressed that detailed commentary on the matter was not possible because of constraints and the framework the club is legally obliged to operate under.
The statement continued: “Cliftonville Football Club has today asked both the Irish FA and NIFL to be part of a consultative group that will help frame the Club’s player education policies going forward.
“We will also continue our work with all the relevant authorities and other charitable and advisory bodies and cooperate as necessary.
“Cliftonville FC takes its position within the football and wider community very seriously.
“We will seek out the most appropriate way to reinforce that message, including bringing in external advisors who can work with all our players on issues around relationship behaviour, social media and mutual respect.”
In a statement the Irish FA said it had referred Donnelly to its disciplinary committee which will decide if he has brought the game into disrepute.
A spokesperson said: “Following the case and the issues that it raised, the Irish FA in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) will introduce a new education programme around lifestyle, attitude and values for club players and staff.
“It is proposed that this programme will be linked to club licensing, making it mandatory.
“Cliftonville Football Club has today asked both the Irish FA and NIFL to be part of a consultative group that will help frame the club’s player education policies going forward.”
The spokesperson added the safeguarding of children remained “the highest priority” of the association.
During the sentencing hearing on Thursday, it emerged that on June 21, 2016, Donnelly had taken a photograph described in court as “extremely intimate” of a 16-year-old girl while they were having sexual intercourse.
The prosecution contended that the girl asked Donnelly to delete the photograph, however his defence team disputed this.
Donnelly shared the photograph with a friend and also with a WhatsApp group with 10 members, which included fellow Cliftonville players.
Several months later the photograph was leaked on Facebook, leaving the girl humiliated and subjected to verbal abuse on the street.
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