Glentoran manager Mick McDermott has joined Cliftonville’s calls for a release of funding to help meet Irish League clubs ‘dire need’ for income.
There had been confusion over whether or not supporters would be admitted, just an hour before Coleraine kicked off the new Danske Bank Premiership season at home to Ballymena United on Friday evening.
Conflicting messages emerged from Stormont over the presence of spectators at elite sporting events. Communities Minister Caral Ni Chuilin sent a letter out on Friday just hours before Coleraine v Ballymena United match saying that spectators should not attend. However, she was later overruled by First Minister Arlene Foster and supporters were admitted to this weekend’s opening round of games.
Ms Ni Chuilin then, speaking to the BBC, appealed for sporting bodies to take her advice and said she would bring the issue to her executive colleagues this week.
The minister also said she was preparing a bid for "substantial money to try and help those clubs". Cliftonville chairman Gerard Lawlor demanded financial assistance, a plea echoed by Glentoran boss McDermott, who had just seen his side beaten 1-0 by the Reds.
“The decision that fans are allowed back is helpful but we’re still going to need major help from our government and governing bodies to make this survive any length of time. That’s the key now,” he told BBC Sportsound.
“I think it would be logical then and surely it was push on the need for help if fans are not allowed. If that’s the case, make up for lost gate receipts. I think that’s the solution, and if it’s a season-long loss of gate receipts, there has been be an answer for senior football as well as some of the lower levels.
“The restaurant and bar businesses were helped, they’ve all been helped. Senior football in particular because of the outgoings that they have with players’ salaries and to keep these stadiums functioning. I know the NIFL clubs are the single largest sports employers in the country in terms of revenue and salaries paid so I think it makes sense.
“If they’re going to shut them down in terms of fans then hopefully the executive sees that there is a dire need of funds.”