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Football can only return soon if all players are tested and Irish League doesn't have finance for that, says Colin Nixon


Final curtain: Colin Nixon says an average points per game basis should be used to conclude the season

Final curtain: Colin Nixon says an average points per game basis should be used to conclude the season

�INPHO/Jonathan Porter

Final curtain: Colin Nixon says an average points per game basis should be used to conclude the season

Irish League legend Colin Nixon believes the current season cannot resume here unless ALL players are tested for Covid-19.

The former Glentoran star doubts the resources are available to Irish League clubs to do that and if that is the case, he feels the 2019-20 campaign should be called off and decided on an average points per game basis.

The Northern Ireland Executive's five-stage plan for easing the Covid-19 lockdown, published yesterday, did not include a timetable but stated that Step Four could see the resumption of competitive sport "behind closed doors" or with limitations on the number of spectators and Step Five could see a resumption of close physical contact sports and a return to competitive sport and full use of sporting facilities.

There have been suggestions that this may mean a return to football in August or September. Whether that will lead to the current Irish League season being cancelled remains to be seen. A crucial NIFL Premiership Committee meeting will take place tonight.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, no games have been played in Northern Ireland since March. Uefa need to be informed by May 25 if the Irish League season is to be extended, though there have been claims that the deadline may be put back.

Ex-Ards manager Nixon feels it is time to pull the curtain down on this campaign, insisting safety is the priority.

"The only way I can see football coming back in the near future is if every player is tested before they start playing again," said Nixon.

"They would need tested before games and on a regular basis throughout the remainder of the season. The health aspect is the most important. There is also the finance. Where will Irish League clubs get the money they need to constantly test players?

"Players will have a wife or girlfriend at home and kids and parents they want to keep safe. I am sure every player wants to play again but they have to be responsible for the people they live with as well as themselves. Sometimes football has to take a back seat and this is that time.

"Of course every endeavour must be made to finish the season but I really don't see how the Irish League can be finished given the circumstances. You could argue, 'Do you just wait and resume the season whenever it is safe to do so, even if that is in several months?' But is that realistic?"

If it is determined that this season must end, Nixon, who won everything the local game has to offer, said: "The only fair way to conclude the league is on an average points per game basis. You don't want a situation where no trophies are handed out."

Asked if that would mean league leaders Linfield, four points ahead of second-placed Coleraine with each having seven games left, being champions, Nixon said: "I am sure Linfield wouldn't want to win the title like that but yes, that's the way it would have to be.

"It would be very tough on Coleraine as they were making a serious challenge and were primed to make their move.

"I don't feel null and voiding the season and forgetting all that has gone before is an option. You are talking about erasing statistics of players who have played lots of matches.

"The hardship comes in making a decision with promotion and relegation. That is so difficult. If you are being fair, the only way is with the average points per game scenario meaning Championship leaders Portadown going up and bottom of the Premiership Institute going down and the play-off between Warrenpoint and Ballinamallard happening at some point. Maybe you might have to scrap the play-off. That is a very hard one.

"With European money, the only fair thing is to share it around. The likes of Linfield, Glentoran and Larne will come through this but teams like Warrenpoint, Institute, Carrick and Dungannon may need serious help so I would divide the money down. Smaller clubs need looked after at a time like this."

Belfast Telegraph