Belfast Telegraph

Healy calls on Irish FA to end the suspension shambles

Blues boss hits out as new season opens in confusion

By Steven Beacom

Linfield manager David Healy has slammed the current suspension system in Northern Ireland football and called on the game's Irish FA and Irish League rulers to bring it up to date and provide more clarity to end the embarrassing stories surrounding ineligible players that plague the local game year after year.

The Blues boss outlined his belief that a radical overhaul of how suspension issues are dealt with needs to be carried out to avoid failures of the past.

Healy, who led Linfield to the league title, Irish Cup and County Antrim Shield last season, said that football in Northern Ireland should follow the more 'common sense' approach to suspensions of England's top flight adding that it would benefit everyone in the Irish League.

Suggesting solutions Healy stated that football here should use the system in England whereby after five bookings a player is automatically suspended for the next game rather than have to wait for a few weeks before the suspension kicks in when confusion can reign.

And that like English football there should be a cut off point for bookings midway through the season allowing them to start again rather than having cautions carried through the whole campaign.

He also sought clarification about the Charity Shield regarding whether bookings would count for the season ahead even though both the Irish FA and Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) informed him that the match was a friendly.

Healy argued: “I believe the suspensions system here has to be improved and clarified for the good of the Irish League. Over the years, there have been too many suspension issues relating to ineligible players which have been embarrassing for football in Northern Ireland and I would like that to stop.

“I’m sure everyone involved in our game would feel the same way. To my mind there is a common sense approach that could be taken.

“Stephen Lowry picked up his fifth yellow card of last season in the Irish Cup final. Aaron Burns collected his fifth yellow in the final league game of last season, which in Northern Ireland carries on for the next season, so both are suspended for one game.

“I have spoken to (Chief Executive) Andy Johnson at NIFL and Craig Stanfield at the IFA and they say the Charity Shield is a friendly which means I can play Stephen and Aaron against Coleraine, but they would have to miss our opening league game next Saturday versus Carrick.

“What I find strange is that nobody from the IFA could confirm to me if a player gets booked in the Charity Shield, if that caution carries on into the season.

“If that is the case, is that not a contradiction because this game is supposedly a friendly yet there is the possibility that bookings could count against players for future competitive fixtures?

“Surely then that makes the Charity Shield a competitive match. I would like to know.”

On suspensions in general, Northern Ireland’s record goalscorer said: “I have sympathy for clubs who have played players when they didn’t realise they were suspended because the system here can be so confusing.

“To me, if a player picks up a fifth booking which leads to a suspension that player should be automatically suspended for the next game, as is the case in England. Over here, he has to wait a few weeks to serve that suspension which leads to confusion. Surely the first way is much easier.

“In other leagues, such as the Premier League in England, there is a cut off point where, say, if you have four bookings up to a certain date, you then go back to zero and start again. They don’t keep going the whole way through like in the Irish League. I think the English way is fairer for players and I believe it could be introduced here.

“I’m disgruntled with the situation. Players of all clubs are being punished by, for me, what is an out of date system. For a player to be punished for the next season after picking up a fifth booking in his 40th odd game the season before doesn’t seem right and I’m not just talking about Linfield. The situation needs to be addressed for all clubs and all players.”

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