Ballymena boss warns action is needed to head off postponements chaos
David Jeffrey has warned the Irish League needs a clear Covid plan to avoid the chaos that has decimated English football.
Six of the 10 Premier League matches were postponed at the weekend, along with a raft of lower division fixtures.
On Saturday, Aston Villa’s clash with Burnley was called off around two hours before it was due to kick off.
Yesterday’s three games did go ahead — but Chelsea fielded just four outfield subs against Wolves after they had a request to postpone rejected.
Several Premier League managers have complained that the situation is unfair.
Amid warnings that Northern Ireland could face up to 30,000 new Covid cases a day, Jeffrey admits football here could be facing an uncertain period.
And while the Ballymena boss said the safety of players, fans and officials is paramount, he wants a clear plan to avoid similar chaos here and ensure fairness.
“I would have thought that the NIFL board are already sitting down considering how do we proceed,” he said.
“At this stage it is most important that we take care of our players and our supporters and not put them at undue risk.
“Also, in terms of any plans that are being made, there has to be consistency with regards to decision making — that it is equitable across the board.”
In England, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta called for the Premier league to issue guidance on the Covid rules to “maintain fairness”.
Newcastle manager Eddie Howe also warned that with decisions on postponements being taken on a case-by-case basis, the league risks becoming “slightly unfair”.
Jeffrey said it is important that clear guidelines are issued if Covid starts to hit the local programme.
He added: “You hear the debate in England and it is really about the fairness of all of this.
“If we’re going to make a decision - we make a decision that is for the good of all.
“And if we have to have a complete cessation for a period — fine. Or, if we are going to go ahead, then let’s be very clear on how we are going to proceed.
“It is about clarity and transparency and sound direction.”
Urging people to “do the right thing” and follow the health advice around jabs and Covid measures, Jeffrey said his work as a senior social worker had brought home the impact of the pandemic.
He added: “We love the normality of being back playing, the normality of fans coming to games.
“What we are being asked to do in terms of double jabs and boosters - and I am one of those, I am double-jabbed, I have my booster - (is very important).
“I’m talking also from the point of view of being a senior social worker - I work in Larne, I lead a team that works with older people and people with physical disabilities who have got complex healthcare needs.
“Covid compounds all of this and it particularly impacts on our ability to care for folk because of the availability of care staff and nurses and social workers.
“To me the overriding factor is the safety of the community generally.
“If we are able to keep playing, then that is absolutely fabulous, if we need to take a break then, okay, that is part and parcel of taking care of ourselves.”
The Danske Bank Premiership has seen a handful of games postponed this season, but has so far avoided large-scale disruption similar to last term, when Covid wiped out the festive programme.
Four more games are scheduled across Tuesday and Wednesday night, before a full programme next Monday and on January 1.