Belfast Telegraph

Scott Young: Safety rules are killing game

By Stuart McKinley

Scott Young fears that thousands of fans could turn their back on Irish League football for good unless action is taken to release the grip of health and safety restriction.

And that the potential to bring in new supporters to keep the game alive is also being curtailed by what he calls 'disgraceful' decisions to reduce crowd numbers at big games.

The Glentoran boss can still recall his first Boxing Day Big Two match as a player, which was watched by some 14,000.

When he leads the Glens into battle against Linfield today, in what is his first festive derby as manager - last season's was postponed due to both the weather and burst pipes at Windsor Park - there will be just 5,300 people at the Oval.

Many fans who tend to only watch matches at holiday times and others who would love to watch their team in action during a Christmas trip home to Northern Ireland are denied that privilege and Young (pictured) is also angered that the chance to showcase the local game to a new generation of supporters is being lost.

"The Boxing Day game is the most talked about and the most eagerly anticipated match every year and it's a disgrace that the attendance has been reduced so dramatically," said Young.

"We're trying to improve the product and bring people back to the game and bring new supporters into the grounds, but health and safety edicts are killing football in Northern Ireland.

"Clubs are struggling financially and then, when there is a chance to benefit from a big crowd it gets taken away.

"As well as that, when you take away the opportunity of someone getting a ticket for the one match a season that they might go to there's every chance they won't bother in the future and you've lost them.

"It puts people off when we need them to support us.

"With no disrespect to any other club or any of the other derby games, the Big Two is the biggest game in the league, it's totally different to any other game I played in for Glentoran because you know how much it entails for the club and the fans and what winning it means to them."

As well as the reduced numbers having an impact on the atmosphere and the excitement around the game, the Glens will see their profit from the fixture slashed compared to previous Boxing Days, with every extra 1,000 supporters bringing in £10,000 of revenue to the cash strapped club.

"We want to entertain fans with free flowing football, but you can't cut the wage bill like we've had to do and still expect that," said Young.

"The expectation at Glentoran is for us to be challenging for the title, but that's probably too big an ask on the budget we're working too and when you can't get as many people through the turnstiles as you would like to do that has an effect.

"That doesn't mean we're giving up on trying to catch Linfield - as Glentoran manager I would be wrong to do that."

And that means an epic battle at the Oval is being anticipated by the Glentoran boss and one he hopes will be memorable as the east-Belfast men look to continue their recent impressive form in Big Two games.

"We've beaten them twice this season and I can't remember the last time Glentoran won three in a row against Linfield," said Young.

"It's massively important that we win this game in order to keep in touch with them, so we'll be going out with all guns blazing.

"They will still be hurting after losing the last two games, so I expect that Linfield will have all guns blazing too."

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