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Irish League clubs have gone cold on making a switch to summer football as consensus opinion fails to materialise


No change: Glenavon chairman Adrian Teer remains opposed to summer switch

No change: Glenavon chairman Adrian Teer remains opposed to summer switch

No change: Glenavon chairman Adrian Teer remains opposed to summer switch

There is no indication of any seasonal change on the horizon for the Irish League after talks on the issue have gone cold.

A change in the fixtures calendar to include the summer months has been debated, with the full-time clubs more in favour of radical shake-up, but the consensus needed to see it become a reality is still missing.

A sub-committee was established by the Premiership Management Committee to look into the matter but many clubs feel there is simply not enough support to move to summer football.

When he was appointed NIFL’s first ever chief executive officer, Gerard Lawlor said: “Summer football is definitely one of the priorities. We either drive it forward or put it to bed.”

An All-Island League has proved unpopular and there are no signs clubs are willing to take the leap of faith and move the season. A senior Premiership source said: “The working group held one meeting at the start of the season and hasn’t met again. There is simply no consensus for change.”

Glenavon chairman Adrian Teer remains unconvinced of the merits of any change.

The former NIFL chair said: “We have not been consulted in the recent past.

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“The subject hasn’t been mentioned for several months. We wouldn’t be a convert to summer football as in the Republic.

“What are our football people going to do in the winter? You run the risk of more fans attaching themselves to clubs across the water and not going to our grounds. I think it’s an easier concept for full-time clubs. The players are told when to play but for part-time sides like ours, the players have jobs and they have limited holiday arrangements in the summer. It just doesn’t work for a part-time club in my view.”

Carrick Rangers chairman Peter Clarke says he hasn’t seen any proposal and his club remained opposed to a switch.

“We are very much against it,” he maintains. “There are bigger leagues with more money to invest in the game and they are sticking to the same calendar so why should we be different?

“I’m struggling to understand how our business case could be so radically different to justify it.

“I’ve heard people say ‘give it a shot’ but you don’t simply do that from a business perspective.

“You have to know how it would work and have a clear picture of how academies would operate and the different leagues changing as well.

“Will younger players be playing at a different time of the year?

“We’ve got to look at how it would impact the whole football structure in this country.

“I know NIFL were having a look at it, but I’m not aware of any proposal.”

Even among the full-time clubs who believe that summer football could enhance their hopes of European success, there was a difference of opinion in the timing of the season with the Airtricity League model from February to November and a May through to January option being explored.

Irish League clubs have still recorded impressive results in Europe despite going into continental battles out of season.
Glentoran manager Mick McDermott has been a passionate supporter of seasonal change, arguing: “To me, the League of Ireland has the right calendar — February to November and you wrap it up for the winter and start again.”

Larne boss Tiernan Lynch is also a strong advocate for a summer switch, saying: “The League of Ireland runs from March to November and I would push for that.

“We would be playing on better pitches, the coaching could be better and more fans would come out when the weather is generally better.”

The Irish FA changed their articles, opening the door to a summer season, but it would require the backing of all the clubs to proceed and some remain reluctant to wave farewell to the popular festive fixtures.

A Belfast Telegraph survey of players at the 12 Danske Bank Premiership clubs found a small majority in favour of an Irish League season played during the summer months, but the results also underlined how opinion is split across the league.

The Northern Ireland Football League was approached for comment.

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