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Crusaders have made cutbacks but jealous claims that we're finished couldn't be more wrong, says treasurer



Fresh face: Aidan Wilson with Stephen Baxter

Fresh face: Aidan Wilson with Stephen Baxter

Fresh face: Aidan Wilson with Stephen Baxter

Crusaders official Tommy Whiteside says the club have made cutbacks to weather the Covid-19 storm this year.

The pandemic prevented the Danske Bank Premiership campaign from being completed and clubs are being put under financial strain amid fears fans won't be allowed back into stadiums in significant numbers.

A new taskforce has been assembled by the Northern Ireland Football League aimed at securing crucial funding for Irish League football, and Crues treasurer Whiteside is putting his shoulder to the wheel.

It's hoped that the NI Executive and Irish FA can find revenue to help keep clubs afloat.

October 17 is the provisional start date for the league campaign and it looks certain clubs are not going to get the 50% capacity levels they hoped for.

The north Belfast side have adopted a more full-time model but were unable to claim a lucrative European place this year.

"People will say Crusaders are finished but they can't be further from the truth," said Whiteside.

"We turned over a lot of money last season and it's okay for others to be jealous. We have cut money off our wage budget, our youth programme, general staff, and we are doing that while trying to get a younger demographic in our playing squad.

"Everyone has to manage their own affairs. We are lucky in that we were in a strong financial position when the hit came."

Clubs do important work in their own communities and some of that may be cut back or lost if finances dwindle.

"I'm on the taskforce with a few others and we are looking at going to government and the Irish FA because, in reality, clubs have had no assistance, which isn't good enough," added Whiteside.

"Anything less than 50% attendance and you have to ask, 'Is the game sustainable?'

"It's not just players' wages. What about all the work clubs do with their youth set-up, community programmes, ladies' initiatives? Those will suffer too."

Crusaders have signed former Rangers defender Aidan Wilson on a two-year deal after a successful trial period with the club.

The former Scotland youth international left Ibrox to go on loan deals with Dumbarton, Forfar Athletic and Edinburgh City.

Ballymena United have signed former Portadown and Glentoran left-back Ross Redman, while talented youngster Trai Hume joins on a one year loan deal from Linfield.

Jim Ervin, Tony Kane, James Knowles and Joshua Kelly have agreed new deals with the Sky Blues.

Belfast Telegraph