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Irish League must give clubs clear pathway and dates for return, says Glenavon chairman


Adrian Teer

Glenavon chairman Adrian Teer has called on Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) chiefs to provide a clear plan for Irish Premiership clubs and a pathway featuring dates for training and playing games if they believe the 2019/2020 season can resume.

The NIFL Board and a Steering Group, formed to "explore options for concluding the current season", were heavily criticised at the weekend following their statement on Friday which revealed they were delaying the decision making process until June 30.

With other leagues across Europe providing clarity on their positions, supporters, players and managers here were left bemused and frustrated by the lack of action and progress given football in Northern Ireland was halted back on March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Linfield boss David Healy spoke for many when he branded the statement an "embarrassment" adding "there is no point delaying and delaying".

Teer, one of the most respected officials in the Irish League, maintained: "In the game, a lot of people's hearts sank when they heard that June 30 date.

"We can't sit indefinitely saying we will finish the season. The NIFL need to be up front and there has to be a pathway linked to dates to give us some hope with the understanding that those are flexible and may change on the back of government or medical advice.

"If it is thought the Irish League can resume, clubs need to be informed when players in the league are able to resume training, what date the league could resume and also outline the format such as whether teams would be playing twice a week or whatever.

"We also need to know where will that leave next season. What is the timescale and format going to be? Will it be truncated? There has been talk about teams only playing each other once home and away. That would have a major impact on the finances of clubs. Until we know, we can't sell season tickets or go to sponsors or advertisers."

Teer added: “In an ideal world, everyone would want the season finished on the field of play rather than the boardroom but we aren’t in an ideal world so it depends when it will go on to.

“We can’t go indefinitely and that’s what we are doing at the moment without knowing what is going to happen. If it is too far in the distance, I think we have to stop the season now.

“In the game a lot of people’s hearts sank when they heard that June 30 date. I can understand the frustrations of people like club chairmen, my directors, our manager Gary Hamilton, players and not least the supporters because who knows where we are going at the moment.”

Listening to Teer, it is evident his experience and knowhow would have been useful in a Steering Group that seems stuck in neutral.

The quintet on the Steering Group are Brian Adams (Ards chairman and NIFL Board chairman), Gerard Lawlor (Cliftonville chairman and NIFL Board vice-chairman), Jack Grundie (Linfield director and NIFL Premiership Committee chairman), Trevor McCann (Ballyclare Comrades chairman) and Jonathan Madill (Independent NIFL Board member).

They have been tasked with providing recommendations to the NIFL Board. Adams, Lawlor and Madill also sit on that along with Andrew Conn (Linfield), Colin Kennedy (Independent), Colin McKendry (Coleraine) and Aidan Murphy (Armagh City). Andrew Johnston is the Managing Director.

Tonight the Irish FA Football Committee, which includes Irish FA President David Martin, will meet.  No doubt the limbo land state of the Irish League will crop up.

Teer says that, should the 2019/2020 campaign be called to a premature halt, it should not be null and voided.

Speaking in a personal capacity, he could understand if table-topping Linfield were awarded the title and that promoting two teams from the Championship to have a 14 team Premiership next term should be seriously considered.

Belfast Telegraph