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Irish FA 'could sour relationships' with clubs if cash row rumbles on, says Bruce

 

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Happy times: Larne get the party started after winning the Championship to secure their promotion to the top tier

Happy times: Larne get the party started after winning the Championship to secure their promotion to the top tier

Happy times: Larne get the party started after winning the Championship to secure their promotion to the top tier

The relationship between the Irish FA and Irish League clubs "will be soured for a very long time" according to Larne owner Kenny Bruce, unless the ongoing row over Uefa funding is sorted out.

Bruce also feels that, with financial worries widespread across the Irish Premiership due to the impact of Covid-19, the IFA ought to demonstrate that they "truly believe" in Irish League football and are united with the clubs at this testing time.

Linfield chairman Roy McGivern and Crusaders treasurer Tommy Whiteside have both made calls for the IFA to release funds distributed to the Association by Uefa courtesy of the European governing body's Hat Trick programme.

The IFA were handed a sum of just under £4m but it is understood some of the finance has already been earmarked for a range of other football-related programmes.

Whether pressure from clubs forces a change of heart and a hand-out, time will tell.

Bruce said: "I think the IFA have a real opportunity to demonstrate they truly believe in the Irish League and to show there is a united front between the clubs, NIFL and the IFA to help the league get through these very difficult circumstances.

"If they miss this opportunity, the relationship between the clubs and the IFA will be soured for a very long time to come.

"It is good for the IFA to have a forward-thinking, inclusive and competitive Irish League and I think over the course of the last two or three seasons we have started to build a product that looks like it can go back to what it was which is very exciting.

"The IFA have to step forward, reach out and give an olive branch and help the clubs get through this pandemic.

"We are not talking millions of pounds.

"It is tens of thousands for clubs to be able to get their house in order and bring back football when it is safe to do so."

Quizzed on whether Covid-19 will change the dynamic of Irish League football which has been on the up in recent seasons, Bruce said: "What will change the dynamic is the uncertainty. It is very unfair to have players and clubs not knowing whether the season is going to finish, whether they are contracted until it finishes and whether their contract runs out in June.

"There will be lots of players whose contracts run out in June who won't be getting a renewal of their contract or a transfer until the clubs know when the resumption is, what the financial support is and what it will cost for our stadiums to be a safe environment for people to come and watch and when that will be allowed to happen.

"There will be a lot of factors considered before you start arranging playing staff.

"Football in Northern Ireland needs strong, decisive leadership from the IFA to make decisions, give clubs clear guidance, add in financial support and then we will all know exactly where we are."

Belfast Telegraph