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'Absolutely disgusting': Coleraine chief blasts Irish League rivals 'putting greed before the game'

 

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Straight talking: Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry

Straight talking: Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry

Stephen Hamilton/Inpho

Adrian Teer

Adrian Teer

Straight talking: Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry

Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry has admitted he will walk away from football unless a new common sense approach emerges in the heated discussions over how to end the season.

There are significant tensions within the Irish League 'family' at a time when big decisions have to made regarding not only this season, but the next campaign as well.

Clubs and the Northern Ireland Football League have so far failed to collectively agree on the best way forward and the Bannsiders are fuming at how the talks have developed.

The redistribution of £1m of European prize money remains a huge issue but Coleraine say they are open to having constructive discussions around that.

What has really angered McKendry is the '22-game' proposal supported by nine clubs to nominate the three sides to play in Europe using standings after teams had faced each other home and away once.

Coleraine realised they, along with Linfield and Cliftonville, had been excluded from those talks which would mean the Reds qualifying for the Champions League but not declared champions, with Linfield and Glentoran in the Europa League spots.

What's happening in football within Northern Ireland at this moment is absolutely disgusting. I do not want to be part of a process which is driven by financial greed.

The Irish Premiership is one of the last leagues in Europe to produce a plan for concluding the current season and, while McKendry remains hopeful a fair solution can be found, his comments lay bare a growing frustration with the process.

Last week, clubs rejected the two offers proposed by NIFL's Steering Group, one of which was to finish the season on the pitch by playing two more rounds of fixtures while the other would see an independent panel choose a mathematical formula that would determine final league standings.

Coleraine were in favour of the two-game proposal but it was kicked into touch by clubs and McKendry is angry the Bannsiders were excluded from the talks which led to the controversial 22-game proposal.

"There's a big feeling that people have sold their soul, end of story," blasted McKendry.

"The nine people who insulted the people of Coleraine need to reflect on that. We deserve to be at the top table. My strong opinions are based on fact and I will not be bullied any anyone.

"When the nine clubs, including some personal friends, made that suggestion, it insulted my intelligence and the intelligence of the people of Coleraine.

"There needs to be a discussion around the European money and Coleraine are open to that but, let's be honest, a few chairmen have voted with their bank balance to get a few quid. For me, integrity has gone out the window. Was I annoyed at the 22-game proposal to nominate teams for Europe? What I would say is thank goodness it was a Zoom meeting.

"I felt insulted because it's factually incorrect. People with tremendous business acumen were involved in that meeting Coleraine were not invited to."

McKendry accepts there needs to be honest and constructive talks over whether European money can be shared among clubs but he has questioned the motives of rivals.

"Fans groups are very extremely annoyed at what has gone on behind the backs of Coleraine," he added.

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Golden memories: Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry with the 2018 Irish Cup. This season's competition may yet be played to a conclusion.

Golden memories: Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry with the 2018 Irish Cup. This season's competition may yet be played to a conclusion.

Golden memories: Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry with the 2018 Irish Cup. This season's competition may yet be played to a conclusion.

 

"Coleraine are sitting in second place in the league on merit, after winning the League Cup and we are in the semi-finals of the Irish Cup. If that isn't a form team in any league, I don't know what is.

"Unfortunately, clubs in our league have gone the other way.

"Let's be clear about this, Cliftonville are not deciding either way and people are saying Linfield and Coleraine aren't willing to share money. We are backed into a corner and you have to stand up for what you believe. I believe in honesty, integrity and having principles.

"There are those within our league who should probably be looking at how they run their own clubs and not dictating to others. They are nine chairmen or club representatives who want to meet me in boardrooms around the country. This is not about league titles or relegation - this is about money."

Clubs have every right to fight their own corner but now is the time for a united approach and constructive talks over a way forward.

Fans, players and managers are relying on those in charge to show leadership and make the fairest decisions they can in difficult circumstances.

McKendry fears that if there isn't an injection of sporting integrity and common sense into the talks process, he might walk away from football, including his position on the NIFL board and as Coleraine chairman.

"I will not be part of anything that isn't fair, equitable, open and transparent," he insists.

"We have a responsibility and duty that we need to ensure we have good guidance and leadership by everyone involved. If not, I won't be part of it, it's that simple. What's happening in football within Northern Ireland at this moment is absolutely disgusting. I do not want to be part of a process which is driven by financial greed.

"I will walk away from football entirely if that is the case.

"I cannot be part of something that is not morally acceptable. This is not about me, I don't need this.

"I live my life by principles and if Coleraine were in sixth position, would I back this proposal of the nine clubs? No chance, it's called doing the right thing."

McKendry's feelings suggest there is some way to go before peace and harmony breaks out but Glenavon chairman Adrian Teer remains optimistic.

Adrian Teer

 

"Playing the games is the ideal solution, otherwise you have a second best scenario which will not please everyone," he said.

"I would like to think that the discussions will bear fruit.

"Things are parked until Wednesday and let's see if we are given any flexibility.

"Our main concern is we need to get a start date for next season and understand what the format is. That will allow clubs to look at budgets. But I'm hopeful the clubs will reach an agreement. There needs to be progress and the impasse will be resolved."

Clubs are hopeful the Irish FA and Uefa will allow the domestic season to run into August but that may not happen, leaving no alternative other than to abandon the campaign and perhaps have an independent body rule on any outstanding issues like the title, promotion,relegation and possibly European places.

The Irish FA still plan to play the three remaining Irish Cup fixtures and it's been reported that any club which does not participate in the tournament this season risks losing their place in next term's competition.

Belfast Telegraph