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Irish League football in the summer? Let's have a look

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Rising young stars like Glentoran's Jordan Stewart offer some hope to the Irish League's future

Rising young stars like Glentoran's Jordan Stewart offer some hope to the Irish League's future

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

Rising young stars like Glentoran's Jordan Stewart offer some hope to the Irish League's future

In the Irish FA's Strategic Plan are ideas to foster a balanced, flourishing senior domestic game. Here's how they plan to do it and our thoughts...

IFA say: To attract more fans to Irish League matches we must continue to improve the product. Central to our plans is the creation of a new Northern Ireland Football League Company, to own and govern the top three domestic divisions. We hope this will create a dynamic professional league, with improved player development, attracting more fans into the stands.

We say: This issue has been on the agenda for decades and nobody has come up with a solution to the problem of falling crowds in the Irish League. This season is proving to be highly eventful, and gifted youngsters such as Glentoran's Jordan Stewart and Glenavon's Rhys Marshall have emerged, but most clubs continue to struggle to attract crowd numbers of the past. If the Northern Ireland Football League Company can reverse the trend, they'll deserve huge praise.

IFA say: We'll review numbers of divisions and teams in our leagues and promote elite youth development in clubs... carrying out a study into the viability of switching to a 'summer season' between February and October

We say: Good idea looking into summer football. There is a growing feeling in the local game that it would help the Irish League.

IFA say: In order to ensure a long term stable league structure domestic clubs must reduce their debt burden. New fans and new forms of income must be found for clubs across all divisions to survive.

We say: In years gone by too many Irish League clubs have lived beyond their means... several teams in the top flight here have almost gone out of business. Glentoran are the best well known example. The IFA need to continually work with these clubs, but the clubs must also help themselves. Cliftonville and Crusaders cleverly put down artificial pitches a few years ago, meaning their communities can avail of the facility.

IFA say: By 2015 the IFA will publish a new and comprehensive Good Relations and Fan Charter to address barriers to support which continue to exist: songs, flags, sectarian behaviour and foul language.

We say: Should have happened years ago. Surely though instead of by 2015, as is suggested by the IFA, this can be put in operation before then.

IFA say: Many of the tools for club education and registration will be moved online aiding IFA plans to harmonise rules across all leagues and divisions. Whilst each division will retain individual quirks and characteristics, core regulations concerning; player eligibility criteria, league structures and player registration will become standardised.

We say: Player registration problems have caused huge embarrassment to football here down the years. Once the Irish Cup final was postponed because of it! Anything to ensure that this doesn't crop up again is to be welcomed, though standardising all the above across the board, given certain leagues have their own way of doing things, might be easier said than done.

Belfast Telegraph