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Irish League matches played behind closed doors would carry £10k testing cost each

 

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Behind closed doors: shuttered Seaview stadium

Behind closed doors: shuttered Seaview stadium

Brian Adams

Brian Adams

Behind closed doors: shuttered Seaview stadium

The prospect of Irish League matches going ahead behind closed doors has been booted into touch by huge costs.

 

It emerged at Wednesday's Northern Ireland Football League Premiership Management Committee meeting that the bill for Covid-19 testing at every match would be around £10,000.

That's the estimated cost per match of carrying out the necessary testing of everyone in attendance and the costs could be even higher as deep cleaning of facilities would be required to ensure the health and safety of the players and officials.

With seven rounds of matches still to play in the Danske Bank Premiership, that would be a total cost of around £420,000 - and that's before you consider the three remaining Irish Cup matches and other leagues including the Championship.

One source who attended the meeting said: "The testing costs we were told for a behind closed doors game was £10,000 a match, and that came from a position of authority."

As well as clubs losing out through gate receipts and a lack of sponsorship, they would not be able to use the Government's furlough scheme when the players are back in training and playing.

This week's meetings represent an information gathering process for NIFL who will then assess where the game goes from here. It's understood the majority of clubs are in favour of ending the season and this week's five-stage plan issued by the NI Executive which states contact sports can only resume in the final phase has brought that reality closer.

Uefa has given the football authorities a May 25 deadline to submit plans for concluding the season but it's unclear whether NIFL will have all the answers by then.

When football returns will depend on how quickly the virus can be contained but there are fears the game may not be back until September. If this season is finished, the promotion and relegation conundrum, title question and European matters surrounding qualification and money must be addressed.

Brian Adams, Ards chairman and chair of the NIFL board, says he has conducted a survey at his own club which has highlighted some players' concerns.

Adams said: “I was always wondering what would happen if a few players said they weren’t playing because of the virus.

“I know players have contracts but can they be forced to play?

Brian Adams

 

“I asked our 15 players questions and they indicated they did want to play football. The majority said they would feel safe but when I asked them how may would feel safe going into an away changing room, around half of them said no, they wouldn’t feel happy.

“Transport to matches is another issue and whether players would be happy sharing cars or a coach. The survey indicated the biggest concerns surrounded the sharing of changing rooms and showers.”

Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson addressed clubs at the meeting and the association could consult the Government over whether it is possible the game can return earlier than stage five in the recovery plan.

An Irish League doctor, meanwhile, has welcomed the NI Executive’s decision not to put a timescale on its five-stage plan for easing the Covid-19 lockdown. No dates have been attached to each stage of the plan and the Premiership doctor, who didn’t wish to be named, says that’s the right approach.

“There’s sense in not putting timescales on it,” stated the club doctor. “It’s right to have stages and take it one step at a time. I’ve no idea when our game can return, I couldn’t predict that. The guys will need to be back to training so you are looking at a pre-season before they are playing again.

“Team training won’t be back until stage four. We must trust our politicians to give us the detail. The Premier League is a world apart, a multi million pound industry, full time and professional and obviously, our Government guidelines will drive us. It will be individual training first, then group session, then competitive sport. That will be how our road map looks.”

Without a vaccine, clubs will need to adjust to life in the new post-Covid-19 world.

“It’s going to be a different landscape and different world,” admitted the doctor.

“The Bundesliga are starting and they have gone into great detail, including testing players.

“If a player comes back positive, they will use information to trace who he has been in contact with. We are in a very different environment. Our guidance will develop as we move through the stages. There could be issues around indemnity but hopefully it will be a very different landscape by the time we are back playing.”

Belfast Telegraph