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Jim Boyce calls on Linfield to reconsider stance on UEFA payments 'for future of our game'

 

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Jim Boyce

Jim Boyce

@INPHO/Brian Little

Jim Boyce

Former Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce has expressed his disappointment at Linfield's decision to reject calls for European prize money to be split between Irish League clubs this summer.

Boyce and Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey have suggested Uefa funding for European qualification could be distributed to other clubs in these financially challenging times if the domestic season is cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But Blues chairman Roy McGivern, whose side currently sit top of the Danske Bank Premiership, has knocked those "opportunistic" calls.

The Irish FA will be awarded three lucrative places in Uefa competition at the end of the 2019-20 season, worth at least £200,000 to each of the clubs, though it's unclear whether it will be safe for them to participate in Europe this year.

Seven top-flight sides, including Jeffrey's Sky Blues as one of the four Irish Cup semi-finalists, can still qualify for Europe this season. Former Cliftonville chairman Boyce says he's disappointed by Linfield's approach.

"I am very surprised and disappointed by their views," said Boyce. "In my opinion this is the time to show solidarity to help all clubs in these difficult times.

"When I was honoured to be awarded an OBE in 2015 I dedicated it to everyone in Northern Ireland football who kept the game going during all the troubles and helped bring people together. The current situation is devastating for many of our clubs and I certainly have had a very positive response from the many soccer lovers who have contacted me and expressed support for sharing Uefa money.

"I sincerely hope Linfield will reconsider their decision for the future of our game in the province which is going through such difficult times but, of course, they are obviously entitled to their opinion."

It is thought that, if the season is declared finished with no further action, the top three clubs in the table would be awarded the European places; Linfield, Coleraine and Crusaders.

McGivern has argued that European revenues should be secured "solely on merit".

He explained: "This club, along with others, has invested heavily to improve our performance and to enhance the position of the Irish League within a European context. It is imperative, therefore, that European places and the resulting revenues are awarded solely on merit and we would reject what we view as opportunistic calls for a wider distribution of European incomes this season."

McGivern also confirmed that Linfield's players and key staff have been placed on furlough leave, although the Blues are not alone in Irish League circles as Big Two rivals Glentoran have also availed of the government scheme.

"All local clubs are facing significant challenges in these uncertain times with loss of expected incomes at this important time of the season," continued McGivern. "We welcome government support to keep football and other businesses viable."

Belfast Telegraph