Local football has been counting the cost of sub-zero temperatures across the province. Chris Holt and Graham Luney ask each Carling Premiership club how they have been affected and what could be done to help . . .
BALLYMENA UNITED: Don Stirling (Secretary)
OUTSTANDING FIXTURES: Coleraine (away), Dungannon Swifts (away), Cliftonville (home).
ESTIMATED COST: We have been lucky in that we haven’t had too many scheduled home games and that our usual big game with Coleraine on Boxing Day was away. But we were due to play Cliftonville and they usually bring a decent crowd with them so we are probably looking at a loss of around £5,000 to £6,000.
As well as that we have been having to train at various gyms so that has cost us as well.
IS SUMMER FOOTBALL THE ANSWER?: If it is to be brought in then a lot of opinions have to be taken into account — players, managers, supporters. I know that a lot of managers are traditionalists and I am not sure they would go for it.
COULD A 4G PITCH HELP?: I know we are looking at maybe in bringing a 3G or 4G pitch on our secondary pitch which will obviously help with training but there are no plans at present for the playing pitch.
WHAT, IF ANYTHING, COULD THE IFA DO TO HELP CLUBS?: I think the IFA are blameless. I know some clubs have been asking for prizemoney up front but I think that’s only delaying the evil day with the money not going to be there at the end of the season.
CLIFTONVILLE: Gerard Lawlor (Chairman)
OUTSTANDING FIXTURES: Lisburn Distillery (home), Institute (home), Coleraine (home), Ballymena United (away).
ESTIMATED COST: So far we are probably down about £15,000 because, with respect, we wouldn’t have attracted a big gate against either Distillery or Institute. Having said that, if this goes on and Monday’s game (against Glentoran) is off then that’s about £15,000 in itself.
SUMMER FOOTBALL: We are riding on the coattails of football in England and Scotland and if we don’t play at the same time then people will lose interest in our league.
4G PITCH: Well we train on one at Whiterock Leisure Centre and it was closed (on Tuesday) because of the frost. They do help but it is not the be all and end all.
IFA HELP: What can they do? In my opinion it is a matter for the clubs to keep their own houses in order and make sure they are in a position to counter these things. If you are well-run then you have a good relationship with your bank and you go to them for help, if you have to. The IFA is not a bank.
COLERAINE: Hugh Wade (Chairman)
OUTSTANDING FIXTURES: Linfield (away), Portadown (home), Ballymena United (home), Cliftonville (away), Linfield (home)
ESTIMATED COST: We have been hit very hard and taking into account two holiday fixtures, our derby game against Ballymena United on Boxing Day and Linfield we have lost out on around £50,000. We also missed out on a home game against Portadown so all in I would say we are down somewhere in the region of £60,000 to £70,000.
SUMMER FOOTBALL: We discussed it and we are not advocates of it. We are a part-time league and, as such, we have players who have other jobs and it would be unfair on them to expect them to play at maybe the only time when they might be able to take a family holiday.
4G PITCH: We would certainly look at it in the long term. Due to finances we are not in a position at the minute to take up such an option, but we wouldn’t rule it out in the future.
If the funding was available through grants from the government or the governing body then it is definitely something that we would look at.
IFA HELP: I think the IFA could help by making potential prize money available for clubs to get themselves through this or offering a short-term loan
Matches aren’t being played but players still have to be paid and we have no money coming in.
CRUSADERS: Harry Davison (Secretary)
OUTSTANDING FIXTURES: Linfield (away), Linfield (Paddy Power County Antrim Shield Final)
ESTIMATED COST: It’s business as usual — we’re just brushing the snow off it. The pitch will generate funds, rented out between £70 and £80 an hour. We got 100 per cent grant aid to put it down. Our Boxing Day crowd for the Cliftonville game was double the attendance we got for the fixture two years ago.
SUMMER FOOTBALL: The club is against it. The general feeling is that football should still be played over the winter.
4G PITCH: Ninety per cent of teams train on these pitches and we are hapy to play on it. The manager (Stephen Baxter) is happy and we are happy for others to use it.
IFA HELP: This is just freak weather we are having but I don’t agree with Setanta Cup matches on a Saturday. I can’t imagine Carling being content with that.
DUNGANNON SWIFTS: Simon Graham (Secretary)
OUTSTANDING FIXTURES: Newry City (away), Ballymena United (home), Institute (away).
ESTIMATED COST: We have got off extremely lightly. Our pitch was no more playable than anyone elses but we only had one home game against Ballymena due to be played. I wouldn’t be able to put a fugure on what we would have brought in that day but what is hurting us most is that, because of the weather, people aren’t venturing out and so the social club isn’t being used which would be an important revenue stream.
SUMMER FOOTBALL: No thank you! I don’t think it has worked particularly well in the South. Maybe in countries further north where this is the norm but I don’t see the need for it here and I think attendences would suffer rather than go up.
4G PITCH: We aren’t looking into it at the minute but we wouldn’t be against it
IFA HELP: I don’t think there is a lot they can do — it’s freakish weather. What I would hope, though, is that if we end up missing another couple of games the deadline for the split will be put back, so we aren’t squeezing in too many matches.
GLENAVON: Adrian Teer (Chairman)
OUTSTANDING FIXTURES: Portadown (home), Lisburn Distillery (away), Newry City (home).
ESTIMATED COST: We are probably looking at a £15,000 to £20,000 loss seeing as we were due to play Portadown at Mourneview Park on Boxing Day and then Newry. We have also had to pay £100 a night for indoor training facilities and we had a big draw planned for the Boxing Day game which we felt would have brought in a lot more money to the club.
SUMMER FOOTBALL: We are completely against it. It has been brought up by the Premier League committee and discussed and it has been rejected. I just don’t think it would work.
4G PITCH: We would welcome that. I am a tradtionalist but I think the fact that from a business point of view it can be used as a way of bringing money into clubs then it can’t be dismissed. I am sure Crusaders didn’t do it just so they can play on it themselves.
IFA HELP: This is the flagship football competition in the country so the IFA have to help make sure it goes ahead. I think they could help clubs by providing funding for covers to go on pitches to at least give games a chance to go ahead.
GLENTORAN: Stafford Reynolds (Board member)
OUTSTANDING FIXTURES: Linfield (home), Portadown (away), Lisburn Distillery (home)
ESTIMATED COST: After losing the Big Two Boxing Day game I would say you are looking at a figure somewhere north of £70,000 just for that one game. We have lost another so the figure is going up and we will not recoup that sort of money — it’s gone now.
SUMMER FOOTBALL: I may not have the same opinion as our chairman (Aubry Ralph) but I believe it has to at least be looked at, so too must Friday football on a more regular basis. Let’s get people with experience in the game — players, managers, officials, administrators, members of the media and dicuss what the pros and cons are. Then we will take it from there.
4G PITCH: I don’t know enough about it to be honest.The pitch isn’t always the problem though, we have to take into account the safety of supporters on terrraces, car parks and surrounding areas.
IFA HELP: I don’t think there is much more they can do but if anything they could, if needed, free up some sponsorship money to get clubs out of trouble in the short term.
INSTITUTE: Stephen Spratt (secretary)
OUTSTANDING FIXTURES: Cliftonville (away), Lisburn Distillery (home), Newry City (away), Dungannon Swifts (home).
ESTIMATED COST: We don’t have the glamour derby games like other teams but you are talking thousands of pounds. But our financial problems have been exaggerated and blown out of proportion.
SUMMER FOOTBALL: We believe it would be difficult. Most of the players in the Irish League are amatuers and they have work commitments and needs holidays.
4G PITCH: Our players weren’t hugely impressed by the Crues’ pitch though we won 2-1 there. My personal preference is grass but I would not have strong objections to it if it was put down correctly.
IFA HELP: I think the Setanta Cup should be done away with or turned into a pre-season tournament. And a wage cap is a must. The Co-operative Insurance Cup should be a straight knock-out.
LINFIELD: Jack Grundie (Trustee)
OUTSTANDING FIXTURES: Coleraine (home), Glentoran (away), Crusaders (home), Coleraine (away), Crusaders (Paddy Power County Antrim Shield Final), St. Pat's Athletic (away) — Setanta Sports Cup.
ESTIMATED COST: When you take an average £10 a head for games, you are talking a substantial sum of money, maybe tens of thousands, but we also have many season ticket holders.
SUMMER FOOTBALL: No and there is no support around the league for it either. This is a part-time league and we can’t play our football in July.
4G PITCH: No. I would be happy to see one at Midgeley Park for training purposes or the Swifts games but Windsor cannot stage international football on that surface.
IFA HELP: It would not be reasonable to extend the season as players’ salaries have to be paid by clubs. If this weekend’s fixtures are wiped out some matches will have to be arranged for days just before cup games. The Setanta Cup is up for discussion but Co-operative Insurance, as sponsors, have conditions in their contract, ie a mimimum number of matches, that must persist.
LISBURN DISTILLERY: Ashley Wragg (Acting Secretary)
OUTSTANDING FIXTURES: Cliftonville (away), Institute (away), Glenavon (home), Glentoran (away).
ESTIMATED COST: I can’t produce an exact amount but as a club which has cash flow problems we have not welcomed this cold snap. Midweek matches never get the same crowds as Saturday games.
SUMMER FOOTBALL: If there was a clear plan of action and well thought out I would give it a chance, but I think Sunday football is more realistic.
4G PITCH: I have no problems with it. I know it has been criticised but it can generate revenue and not detract from the quality of football.
IFA HELP: I think the league format does not work. A 16-team league would be better. When there are too many fixtures fans are short-changed. The County Antrim Shield should take a back seat.
NEWRY CITY: Morton McKnight (board member)
OUTSTANDING FIXTURES: Dungannon Swifts (home), Institute (home), Glenavon (away)
ESTIMATED COST: You are possibly looking at a few thousand pounds, meanwhile players’ wages have to be paid.
SUMMER FOOTBALL: We have a sporting public here who like cricket and bowls in the summer as well as holidays. I don’t see an appetite for change.
4G PITCH: Newry City are contemplating that. It can be used 24/7 and in my view it’s the way forward.
IFA HELP: The Setanta Cup has its problems at the moment and there are some complaints about the Saturday fixtures. I’m reluctant to upset sponsors because the game needs them.
PORTADOWN: Bobby Jameson (former chairman)
OUTSTANDING FIXTURES: Coleraine (away), Glenavon (away), Glentoran (home)
ESTIMATED COST: Between £20,000 to £30,000. A substantial amount. This recession has gone on for 18 months and we have to cope.
SUMMER FOOTBALL: No. Most clubs want to keep playing though the winter. Our summer does not lend itself to a football season.
4G PITCH: No. Our manager (Ronnie McFall) is not a fan and it is not something I could visualise happening at Portadown.
IFA HELP: The Irish FA have done their best to rearrange fixtures. This is a one-off winter and clubs will just need to live within their means as best they can.