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Jim Boyce: Irish League should share European prize money in bid stave off financial distress

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Jim Boyce

Jim Boyce

@INPHO/Brian Little

Jim Boyce

Former Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce says he has received a positive response to his suggestion that Uefa payments could help stop Irish League clubs from suffering financial distress.

Clubs are faced with worsening financial headaches due to the coronavirus and former Cliftonville chairman Boyce feels a 'we are in this together' mentality is needed now more than ever.

There is no indication when football in Northern Ireland will return and clubs, like any other business, need revenue to keep ticking over.

Boyce is proposing next season's Uefa payments for the three teams who eventually qualify for Europe should be split between all the top-flight clubs.

It's a 'united we stand or divided we fall' approach which makes financial sense but relies on the sides who qualify for Europe not insisting they want their full slice of the pie.

The Uefa payments would top £1m and in these testing times when everyone is struggling a little solidarity would lift spirits.

"I've had a very positive reaction to the idea," said Boyce, who celebrates his 76th birthday today. "Clubs are struggling across this island and I think this would represent the football family coming together to support one another.

"I do believe this season must finish to resolve the outstanding issues but it appears highly unlikely clubs will be prepared to travel long distances to play in Europe in the middle of all the travel restrictions we are seeing.

"Smaller countries need financial assistance and we all want football to keep going. We should stand together at this time.

"Would clubs turn down money if it is offered now? Common sense tells me they would appreciate it and it would even save Uefa money.

"We don't need a strong three clubs, we need a strong Irish League. I think it would be a wonderful gesture for the clubs to share the money around for one year only. Set aside self-interest and consider the wider health of the game."

The brakes have been slammed on the 2019-2020 season by this lethal virus and that also means we were denied the pleasure of watching last night's scheduled Big Two clash at The Oval in front of BBC cameras.

Boyce, who was awarded an OBE for services to football in 2015, feels the season must be concluded.

"I'm sure there are enough wise heads around to see that happen and make suggestions for next season," he added. "I'm not a fan of behind-closed-doors games and we must wait until the green light is given to resume football.

"A lot of people are suffering and when football does return we should remember not a lot of people will have money to travel."

Meanwhile, Mid-Ulster rivals Glenavon and Portadown have become the latest sports clubs to provide community support during the midst of the coronavirus.

As the wide-ranging effects of the pandemic continue to mount with job losses adding to health concerns to create an anxious environment, clubs in Northern Ireland are doing what they can.

The derby duo have both set up initiatives to collect essential items for the elderly or vulnerable in their communities.

Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton said: "We are attempting to make sure people are sufficiently looked after where needed."

Glenavon's Mourneview Park will be open on Tuesday and Saturday mornings as well as Thursday evenings for donations.

Portadown's Shamrock Park will be open today between 10am-1pm.

• LINFIELD have been hit with a £400 fine from the IFA's Disciplinary Committee after an incident involving fans in their match at Carrick on March 7.

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