Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Be quicker on the draw and help our clubs, says Boyce

Jim Boyce

Former Irish FA President Jim Boyce has revealed to the Belfast Telegraph that he has already made an appeal to Uefa to have the first round draws for the European club competitions brought forward.

On the eve of Linfield’s Champions League qualifier against B36 Torshavn of the Faroe Islands, Linfield boss David Jeffrey appealed to the IFA to lobby Uefa in an attempt to give Irish League clubs more time to make travel arrangements for away games.

Both Linfield and Portadown were in action on Tuesday night, having only found out the identity of their opponents last Monday, giving the Ports just a matter of days to arrange a charter aircraft to take them to Macedonia.

Jeffrey also asked for Boyce to use his position as vice-President of Fifa to influence European football chiefs to make a change in their draw schedule.

And with Boyce already a step ahead such a change could come about in the near future.

“I am not a member of the Uefa Executive Committee, but as part of my role within Fifa I get invited to the meetings,” revealed Boyce.

“The first one I attended was in October last year and I brought up the issue of the first round draws for the European club competitions,” he said.

“I explained that it is grossly unfair to our clubs and the rest of the teams from the smaller countries to give them, in some cases less than a week, or at most 10 days, to arrange travel and hotels to away games that could be on the other side of Europe.

“Giorgio Marchetti, who is Uefa’s Director of Competitions, was at the meeting and he said the issue would be looked at — it’s in the minutes of the meeting.

“He explained that some countries don’t know which teams will be in which competition until a couple of weeks before the draw is made, but even if it was brought forward by a week or 10 days it would make a difference.

“I will be bringing this up again. I will ask if things have been looked at, because I am familiar with the situation and my own club Cliftonville have had to deal with this over the last three years as well.”

In the past, when Irish League clubs entered Europe at the same time as all the other teams across the continent, the draws were made in mid-July, with the matches then played in mid-September.

Over the last 15 years the matches have got earlier and earlier, with the preliminary rounds of the Champions League and Europa League kicking off in the first week of July.

Even if the first round draw is brought forward, there is little that can be done about the second round matches.

Linfield already know that if they get past Torshavn they will travel to Cypriot side Limassol in the next stage and that they will be away from home in the first leg, which will take place just seven days after the second leg of their clash with the Faroe Islanders.