| 16.8°C Belfast

Irish League could be wiped out until 2021 due to coronavirus crisis, warns Crusaders chief



Locked up: no entry at Seaview

Locked up: no entry at Seaview

Mark Langhammer

Mark Langhammer

Locked up: no entry at Seaview

A leading Crusaders official says he fears Irish League football will not be played again until 2021.

Northern Ireland Football League chiefs are expected to inform Uefa this month that the current season cannot be finished, but Crues vice-chairman Mark Langhammer is contemplating a nightmare scenario of the game not returning until next year.

The coronavirus pandemic has slammed the brakes on football and while there is no vaccine and social distancing measures are in place, the Irish League cannot resume.

In England there are discussions about playing matches behind closed doors next season but that proposal is considered to be unworkable in domestic football.

If the game does not return in the coming months, the financial implications for some of our clubs could be severe.

Football, with its close contact nature on and off the pitch and the large gatherings it attracts, still represents a significant health risk while the disease is spreading.

And there is the very real fear of sport contributing to a second outbreak of the virus.

"Football-wise, I'd fear for the 2020-21 season never mind this one," said Langhammer.

"January 2021 would be optimistic, in my opinion, as we don't have a vaccine.

"And, if testing capacity and testing resource is clearly limited, who could argue that footballers should be a priority in society?

"A return to football in that 12 to 18-month period would require regular, certainly pre and post-match, testing. The Premier League might be able to bear those costs but our league couldn't.

"Social distancing in stadia is close to unworkable - even with very strictly limited attendances."

Uefa have given NIFL a deadline of May 25 to submit a plan for the restart of the season but lingering hopes of it resuming are fading, with Larne owner Kenny Bruce saying it should be brought to a close now.

Belfast Telegraph