Belfast Telegraph

Linfield legend Peter Dornan: Sunday football can boost Irish League

By Stuart McKinley

He never played a competitive match on a Sunday during an illustrious career, but Linfield legend Peter Dornan wants tomorrow's Danske Bank Premiership clash between Warrenpoint Town and Cliftonville to be a catalyst in Irish League football.

And in order to facilitate that he wants to remove clubs' right to veto requests for Sunday matches.

Currently both teams have to agree for matches to take place on the Sabbath, but like the Friday night rule, Dornan, who is an independent member of the NI Football League Management Committee, would support moves to take away the visiting team's right to turn down requests to play on a Sunday.

"I would back regular games on Sundays and it is great to see that two clubs - Warrenpoint Town and Cliftonville - have got together and decided to play this game on Sunday," said Dornan.

"I am not advocating a move to becoming a Sunday league, that's not going to happen because most clubs don't want to do it.

"That is something I would like to see changed though. If a club wants to play its home game on a Sunday they should be allowed. I would take away the rule that allows clubs to refuse without sanction.

"A few years ago Boxing Day fell on a Saturday and the Big Two Boxing Day game was postponed. Glentoran suggested that they try to get the game played the following day, on the Sunday, but Linfield said no and I don't think that should be allowed to happen."

It was only in 2008 that the Irish FA's ban on Sunday football was lifted, 50 years after a total ban on any team from here playing on a Sunday and 26 years after the Northern Ireland international team faced France in a Sunday game during the 1982 World Cup finals.

Glentoran and Bangor played in the first official Sunday game here a few months later, but the status quo largely remains, with Saturday afternoons and the occasional Friday night match the preferred option.

Dornan is well aware that a cultural change would be needed if Sunday football was to become the norm, but doesn't see it as something which is impossible.

"I think Sunday matches could be beneficial for the Irish League," he said.

"For example, on an international weekend when there are no English Premier League matches on television I think it would be an ideal opportunity to play an Irish League game on a Sunday.

"The Northern Ireland Football League carried out research and from those surveys there was definitely an appetite for Sunday football and a feeling that it could be good for the game.

"When you think of the number of people involved in amateur football across Northern Ireland on Saturday afternoons, at the same time as Irish League matches are taking place, it's a large number of potential customers who are being taken away.

"Going to a match on Sunday could be attractive to them. When Glentoran played Bangor in the first game the attendance was around 2,500 - I don't think they would have got that on a Saturday.

"Again though it is down to the clubs themselves and some simply don't want it."

Like many things in Northern Ireland football, however, the decision over when is best to play matches can come down to pounds, shillings and pence.

Treasurers want to make sure their clubs are optimising their potential gate, as well as other revenues that come in.

"I have spoken to a number of chairmen around the league about the Sunday football issue," said Dornan.

"One, from a Belfast club, told me that on a Saturday afternoon his club can lift £6,000 in the social club from people staying behind after the game to have a drink before going home - that is quite significant..

"They wouldn't get that on a Friday night and they wouldn't get it on a Sunday, so there is a case of playing games when it suits home clubs."

Belfast Telegraph


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