Belfast Telegraph

Health and Safety - the double act that no one finds funny

By Billy Weir

There have been many dodgy double acts down through the ages - French and Saunders, Keith Harris and Orville, Les Dennis and Dustin Gee, The Krankies, to name but a few - but the least smile-inducing of them all must be Health and Safety.

In the spirit of trying something a little bit different, Ballymena United brought forward their game with Linfield to Friday evening and prepared themselves for what they hoped would be a bumper gate at Warden Street.

Then stepped in our intrepid duo as the Showgrounds is owned and run by Mid and East Antrim Council, who decreed that it came under their 'careful now' guidelines for matches that could bring pestilence, plague and potential disaster to the good folk of Ballymena and its sheep-strewn environs.

As a high-risk game it means it has become all-ticket - well, I say all-ticket, but only for home fans as Linfield fans using the Warden Street Stand can come in and pay by whatever means they like, cash preferably, but bartered goods may be considered.

Sky Blue followers have to purchase a ticket, with 1,600 up for the opposite stand, and this has gone down about as well as Jimmy Nesbitt dandering through the Fairhill Centre bedecked in blue and white stripes.

I have been attending matches at the Showgrounds for the best part of 35 years, in times when conditions were somewhat less salubrious than now, and remember standing below the old clock in conditions as slippery as penguin poo on an ice floe and emerged relatively unscathed.

Making people buy tickets dissuades the casual floating fan who sits on a Friday and thinks, 'You know, I might nip down to the match' only they can't pay at the gate. Yes, we need safety guidelines, it would be churlish and flippant to argue otherwise, but stop killing the game.

Hot rods hurtle around the Showgrounds some evenings, which to me would be slightly more dangerous than someone handing over £11 at a turnstile or making people with season tickets go and buy a ticket.

Ballymena's Supporters' Liaison Officer has sent a letter to the Council asking them to spell out why these measures are needed when it is unlikely that 1,600 brave souls will venture out. I hope the initiative proves a success and everyone has a healthy and safe evening, but maybe a bit of common sense would be better rather than nanny state interference of the daftest of kinds.

Belfast Telegraph

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