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Irish League summer football on the way

The Irish League football season looks set to move to the summer months for the 2015-2016 campaign.

A widespread consultation exercise with local football fans has disclosed that the vast majority of supporters want to say farewell to the winter season.

There remains discontent within several Premier League clubs, however Northern Ireland Football League chiefs understand that fans are the customers and they must be given what they want.

The summer switch will see an end to the money-spinning Boxing Day fixtures but the Premiership clubs competing in Europe may reap the financial benefits of making further progress on the continent.

Uefa's Advisory Manager Tom Gorissen was at Newforge last night to outline his recommendations following an analysis of the results of stakeholder meetings as well as online and telephone surveys.

It was also revealed that there is firm opposition to any move to expand the Premiership beyond 12 teams.

Championship One and Two looks set to be shaken up with improved promotion and relegation procedures.

"The results of the feedback reveal that while clubs still favour the winter season, the majority of fans are keen to see summer football," said Gorissen.

Gorissen added: “There is an understanding and belief that if we want to see increased attendances then this option is one the Northern Ireland Football League Board is going to look at.

“I understand there is the issue of clubs losing out on the revenue from the Boxing Day fixtures but the hope is that they can regain that money from other big games during the summer. There is the hope that pitches and training facilities will be better over the summer, as will the weather.”

The summer season could run from March to November.

Fans have also expressed a desire to see clubs continue to experiment with different kick-off times.

Cliftonville manager Tommy Breslin said he still had reservations about a summer switch while Coleraine boss Oran Kearney underlined the European benefits for some clubs.

Clubs secure around £100,000 for every round they play on the European stage.

“Summer football brings its own problems,” said the Reds boss. “It seems to be an acceptable solution but although floodlights will not be needed as much, pitches will be harder and need watered. Will more players get injuries or even go on holiday? I don’t think it’s the straightforward solution that some people think.

“I know they have a summer game in the south but it’s a full-time set-up.”

Kearney said: “I don’t agree with change for change’s sake despite us recognising that improvements need to be made.

“We have the Milk Cup tournament and North West 200 events in the north-west so it’s a busy time but from a footballing point of view. Summer football would be a serious help to clubs with European ambitions.

“I’ve played European football with Linfield and the frustration was not with the quality of the opposition but the fact that we could not be as prepared as we would have liked to have been.”

A further stakeholder meeting will take place tonight at Stangmore Park, Dungannon.

The NIFL Board will consider the recommendations and put forward proposals at the AGM, possibly at the end of June.

Belfast Telegraph