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Irish League clubs are united in desire to complete season, says Coleraine chairman

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Colin McKendry

Colin McKendry

Colin McKendry

Irish League clubs presented a united front during Wednesday evening's meetings to discuss the implication of the coronavirus outbreak for local football.

An internal steering group was set up to help guide the clubs through the crisis.

UEFA's meetings earlier in the week resulted in a general agreement to conclude the current domestic seasons by the end of June, should it be practicable amidst the progress of the covid-19 crisis.

All 12 Premiership clubs were represented on Wednesday's conference calls, as were the 12 Championship sides and 11 Premier Intermediate League teams.

There have been suggestions that domestic campaign may have to be declared 'null and void' but Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry says there was a feeling of unity amongst the clubs and a resolve to ensure the 19/20 campaign is concluded.

"We're all together as a football family and we want to see the season out and ensure that everything is done correctly," he said.

"There are meetings going on at high levels in Europe amongst the UEFA working groups around things like player contracts. Those are the type of issues we need guidance on but the feeling was very much 'let's do this'."

Specifics, as yet, are impossible to come by.

There are many outstanding issues, such as the destination of the Premiership title, with Linfield only four points ahead of Coleraine, and the qualifiers for European competition.

Add to that the promotion and relegation between the divisions, with Portadown, Loughgall and Ballinamallard all vying for the Championship title and three points separating Annagh United and Portstewart at the top of the PIL, and there is much at stake.

"There was nothing decided because we can't do that at this stage," McKendry continued. "It's a watch and see case for us at the minute.

"We're following the guidance firstly from the medical people and then secondly from the football authorities, the IFA and NIFL who are in turn following the advice from UEFA.

"We'll leave those decisions to the people who know best and follow on from that.

"April 4 remains the date we're due to return but in my personal opinion, it's unrealistic. I don't think we could even have players ready to play by then.

"There is now room to move in the summer with the Euros postponed."

Another principle issue for Irish League clubs will be any potential for funding to be made available to support teams through the crisis.

In England, the EFL has announced a £50m short-term relief package to assist cash-strapped clubs while the Scottish FA board has made a £1.5m fund available to its clubs.

The Irish FA is continuing to monitor the situation.

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