Linfield have agreed to participate in the Setanta Sports Cup after the club’s fans told the board that they still want to see their team play in the competition.
Chairman Jim Kerr, however, is concerned that potential problems could surface, depending on who the Blues are drawn to face.
Many members of the Windsor Park club’s management committee haven’t been big fans of the all-Ireland tournament since security measures surrounding all Linfield’s games were increased as the same time as prize money was slashed.
They were incensed when supporters’ buses were taken down country lanes in County Louth after last season’s meeting with Dundalk and all six competing Carling Premiership clubs were then made to wait some three months before receiving promised payments from the sponsors.
That cash delay threatened to bring a premature end to the staging of the competition — which still has two years to run under the sponsorship agreement — but even after that issue was cleared up Linfield didn’t sign up to the 2012 tournament until those most affected by the heightened security, the fans, gave their full backing to the Blues taking part.
“We are in the competition after quite a wide consultation process with our supporters,” revealed Kerr.
“In particular we asked those supporters clubs who travelled to Setanta Cup games last season if they wanted to continue.
“They don’t want to be mucked about like they were last year when we went to Dundalk, but there is an appetite for Linfield to continue to take part — although it’s not a priority for the manager,” he said.
“We fully accept that there has to be a security process, but it was overkill in Dundalk.”
Only the first round matches will be known when the draw for this year’s Setanta Sports Cup is held in Dublin today.
The four unseeded teams from Northern Ireland will face opposition from the League of Ireland.
The winners of those games will then go up against the four teams who have gained automatic entry to the quarter-finals.
And that is where Kerr can foresee major security arrangements having to be put in place.
“I think if we draw Shamrock Rovers it could be a logistical nightmare,” said Kerr.
“I don’t think Tallaght will be the most welcoming place for Linfield supporters, but other than one incident involving a minority of people our fans have behaved very well since the Setanta Cup started.”
SETANTA SPORTS CUP 2012: Non-seeded teams (round one): Cliftonville, Glentoran, Lisburn Distillery, Portadown, Bohemians, Bray Wanderers, Derry City, St Patrick’s Athletic.
Seeded teams: (quarter-finals) Crusaders, Linfield, Shamrock Rovers, Sligo Rovers.