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Northern Ireland supporters chief slams fixture change as 'beyond comprehension'


Northern Ireland fans.

Northern Ireland fans.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Gary McAllister, Amalgamation of Official NI Supporters Clubs chairman

Gary McAllister, Amalgamation of Official NI Supporters Clubs chairman

Northern Ireland fans.

Northern Ireland supporters chief Gary McAllister has slammed UEFA's decision to shuffle Nations League fixtures in October as "beyond comprehension".

It is as yet unclear whether or not fans will be permitted to attend international matches for the rest of the campaign and UEFA has said only that it is monitoring guidance from governments and health officials.

However, McAllister is concerned that due to a scheduling issues, some fans may miss out even if stadium doors are opened.

Northern Ireland's Euro 2020 play-off semi-final in Bosnia and Herzegovina has now been rescheduled for October, with a potential final against either Republic of Ireland or Slovakia to be played at Windsor Park in November.

As a result, both of those international windows will now be played as 'triple-headers', featuring three matches.

UEFA ruled that the play-off games must come first, resulting in date switches for the already-scheduled Nations League ties.

Northern Ireland's play-off semi-final in Zenica will take place on Thursday 8 October, leaving Sunday 11 October and Wednesday 14 October as the dates for the month's two Nations League games.

However, rather than leave the trip to Norway, originally scheduled for October 11, on its original date, that game has been moved to October 14, with the home game against Austria now instead due to be played on October 11.

McAllister, chairman of the Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs, was less than impressed with the decision.

He said: "Although we anticipated some changes, I'm sure most fans will surely agree that the decision to swap the Norwegian and Austrian fixtures is beyond comprehension.

"Switching the Austrian game to the new date, after the Norway game should surely have been possible?

"Whilst we accept that, at this stage, there are no guarantees that fans would be admitted to those games, the changes that have been made to these particular fixtures will rule out attendance for most of those who had already made travel arrangements."

UEFA has been contacted for a response.

Both of Northern Ireland's Nations League fixtures in November have been pushed back 24 hours due to the potential play-off final on Thursday November, 12.

Northern Ireland will now travel to Austria to play on Sunday 15 November and host Romania on Wednesday 18 November.

Meanwhile, UEFA has confirmed the 2022 World Cup qualifying process. The 55 European nations will be split into 10 groups (five groups of five and five groups of six). Group winners will qualify directly for the finals with the 10 runners-up progressing to the play-offs, where they will be joined by two teams from the Nations League. Three teams will qualify for the finals via the play-offs.

Belfast Telegraph