Belfast Telegraph

Ballymena boss Walker hoping for sensible resolutions

By Billy Weir

Not so very long ago all any football fan wanted for Christmas was a copy of Sensible Soccer below the tree on December 25.

And while Roy Walker’s Megadrive may be gathering dust in the loft, it is exactly the message he has for the powers-that-be when they come to sorting out the looming fixture crisis.

While the snow lying deep, crisp and even makes it a winter wonderland for many, the wonder around Warden Street is just when will a ball be kicked again in anger.

Yesterday’s early check of the Showgrounds pitch put paid to the bumper ‘Boxing Day’ encounter with Coleraine — the third big pay-day the Sky Blues have missed out on in since Eskimos poked their heads out of igloos and said ‘it’s like Castlederg out there.’

As he dusted the snow off his boots, Walker revealed the cost of what the cancellations mean to the club and also appealed for a common-sense approach to reorganising the games.

“We’ve missed out on Crusaders in the CIS Cup and Glentoran and now Coleraine in the League, and there are obviously financial implications for the club,” he said.

“We did our best yesterday to try and get it on and we had a team here working at the pitch but there was nothing we could do.

“I feel the IFA were a wee bit previous in asking for such an early decision, although I recognise that the forecast isn’t positive.

“We understand the weather concerns but clubs should be given every opportunity to try and get the games on. We’ll not lose all the money but you won’t get the same numbers going.

“We reckon it [the postponed games] will cost us in the region of £30-£40,000 and when the games are played we have to look at the optimum time when they take place.”

Many options have been put forward for the rule-makers to take on board such as an extension of the season or creating a free Saturday for the derby games to be played on, but whatever comes about, Walker is adamant that the clubs and the IFA work together for the benefit of everyone.

“We can’t have someone arbitrarily saying you have to play six games in the last six days, that would be folly,” he added.

“There’s normally a gap between the last league game and the Irish Cup final so move it back a week and we can put more games on, giving us two extra Saturdays.

“Input needs to be creative, sensible and the clubs allowed to say when the games suit them best to optimise income because that is their lifeblood in these austere times.

“Whether it’s a mid-season break, or summer football or whatever, there needs to be a clinical look at it.

“The Boxing Day games are different, they attract floating fans and they are the biggest pay-days for most of the clubs and they need looked at.

“It’s about working together to try and get the games on at the best time for everyone.”

It means that Ballymena’s next game won’t take place until New Year’s Day and the trip to Mourneview Park.

In the meantime, Walker will hope that the IFA chiefs and clubs work together to ensure a miserable end to 2010 becomes a much happier new year.

Belfast Telegraph

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