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Health and safety rules will kill the beautiful game

News of refurbishment work at local football stadiums is very welcome and much needed. However there is a "Sword of Damocles" lurking in the wings in the shape of the dreaded "Safety of Sports Grounds (Northern Ireland) Order 2006."

Article 5(1) of this Order clearly states that district councils have the right to amend the terms and conditions of safety certificates as they consider necessary or expedient to secure reasonable safety at sports grounds.

Councils have not been slow in recent times to flex their muscles on unnecessary rulings to the frustration of club chairmen and supporters in the Irish League.

For instance, Ballymena Showgrounds has recently opened a new spectator stand.

It had full planning permission, built to a modern design using the most up-to-date building materials (not a piece of wood in sight) and passed all Health -amp; Safety issues. Why then is there a crowd restriction imposed when a football match takes place?

Many Northern Ireland football fans claim that current health and safety decisions regarding limited crowd attendances and obligatory match ticket allocations are killing the game here.

Football clubs in the Irish League are going through a difficult period financially and they need the support of locals. To their credit they are trying to improve football standards by establishing their own "schools of excellence", improving grounds, installing floodlights and artificial surfaces and eradicating racists and chants from their terracing.

They need their grounds packed with fans and unfortunately local councils are hindering them.

The IFA should be aware that if they build a new Windsor Park for 20,000 people, the Belfast City Council Environmental Department might not allow them to sell the full quota.

Yours faithfully

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