Irish League legend David Jeffrey has urged the football authorities in Northern Ireland and Irish League clubs to see the bigger picture when making key decisions about the conclusion of the 2019/2020 season.
On March 13, football was called to a halt here due to the coronavirus pandemic. There has been a growing sense of frustration amongst supporters, players and managers that little progress has been made since by the Irish FA and Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) about whether the current campaign will resume later this year or not and if so how that will happen.
Many feel self interest amongst clubs and a fear from those in influential positions to make tough calls is at the heart of the issue. Ballymena boss Jeffrey, speaking on his own behalf, says with regard to this season those in power have to consider that "enough is enough" adding that collective thinking from clubs is required.
He also suggests that the Championship's top two Portadown and Ballinamallard ought to be promoted with no relegation from the Irish Premiership.
"Of course football is really important but we need to see the bigger picture," says Jeffrey.
"People have to think of the practicalities and we maybe have to say enough is enough for this moment in time."
Respected throughout football, Jeffrey’s views carry weight. They also contain perspective given he is a senior social worker in Larne who through Covid-19 has been working with older people, people with physical disabilities and people with underlying health conditions.
"Maybe we should be looking to draw the line and think how do we make the very best of this situation," Jeffrey added.
“Clubs will have their own individual needs. I understand that but now is a time for all to think how can we meet our individual needs and collective needs for the good of the game and society as a whole.”
The former Linfield boss adds: “This battle against Covid-19 is on a daily basis and one of the things we are being constantly reminded of in work is not getting Covid-19 fatigue and letting our guard down. We are very clear about our social distancing.
“If you transfer that across to the Irish League there are changing rooms not conducive at all to social distancing so do we put six players in the changing room at once and then let them go out and another six come in?
“Like many other people I haven’t seen my parents for eight weeks. It is hard but we have a professional and personal responsibility to do what is right.”
There is hope that the IFA and NIFL will provide clarity this week about what happens next in football here.
“At this moment in time we have to tell UEFA by May 25 what we are doing as a league. UEFA have said all leagues have to be finished by July 20. Do we honestly think as a part-time league we are going to be able to do that?” asks Jeffrey.
“The leagues that are able to proceed around Europe are those with ginormous financial backing and the ability to do testing.
“I am not telling administrators how to run the game but tough decisions have to be made. For me there is no relegation from the Premiership and you promote Portadown and Ballinamallard, who are the top two in the Championship.”
Jeffrey has previously talked about dividing UEFA prize money for European qualification throughout the league to help clubs struggling financially He points out: “We give the top three in the league the European places, then European money is divided out accordingly though not where everyone gets the same. There has to be some reward for teams who have done better than others. We should use the league placings. I say this even though we at Ballymena are two matches away from winning the Irish Cup and qualifying for the Europa League.”