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'Love the Irish League': Local clubs issue rallying call after football world rocked by European Super League bombshell


Irish League are encouraging fans to support local clubs after the European Super League announcement.

Irish League are encouraging fans to support local clubs after the European Super League announcement.

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye

Irish League are encouraging fans to support local clubs after the European Super League announcement.

Late on Sunday evening, all of a sudden the normal thoughts that keep an avid football fan awake were rendered utterly pointless.

If Liverpool can win at Leeds tomorrow night, we’d be in with a great shout of top four.”

“That result today has us guaranteed second place, surely.”

“Shame about the quadruple chances but a treble would still be nice.”

All gone.

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When news of the much-maligned European Super League was confirmed by the joint announcement from its 12 ‘founding members’, the normal rivalries were thrown to the side.

What’s the point of a Liverpool fan wishing defeat on Manchester United if they can’t even bring themselves to support their own club after what many view as the ultimate betrayal.

The new competition would offer spaces for qualifiers but would also guarantee the 12 founding clubs, which included six Premier League sides; Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham, automatic qualification for what they would be viewing as the continent’s premier tournament.

That’s before we even consider the sidelining of European football's governing body Uefa.

While many are arguing that the principle of fairness among the supposed ‘football family’ has long since been left behind in an era where Division One was as premier - or as super - as it got, for others this move has finally tipped the balance.

Manchester United and Northern Ireland hero Norman Whiteside indicated that the talk of a €3.5bn pot being split between the founding clubs is a further affront to clubs’ fanbases, with others also pointed to the rising cost of match tickets and TV subscriptions as evidence that this is a move that has been building momentum across recent decades.

“I honestly thought football was a working class sport,” Whiteside tweeted.

Predictably, fan groups have reacted angrily, with sections of the support from all six of the relevant Premier League clubs speaking out against the move. A banner has already been erected at Liverpool’s Anfield stadium reading ‘Shame on you. RIP LFC 1892-2021.’

And as many Northern Ireland-based supporters of England’s top sides come to terms with, whatever way you view it, a momentous announcement for the global sport, the Irish League has been quick to vie for their affections.

Far from the elite of the new competition, local clubs have long prided themselves on keeping touch with supporters, as Coleraine FC pointed out on social media shortly after the bombshell announcement.

“This is Coleraine FC,” it tweeted, with a picture of its Coleraine Showgrounds ground. “This is our home. This is our community. Give us the Irish League every day of the week.”

For Belfast City councillor and dedicated Cliftonville supporter Brian Smyth, the local game could never be matched by the new competition.

“Love your Irish League,” he advised. “It’s slightly ramshackled, full of unique characters but there is a warmth and soul to it that a European Super League will never have.”

Portadown are currently enjoying their first season back in the Irish League’s top flight after a recent spell in the Championship but at whatever level, they said they would never lose touch with the fanbase that plays such a hands-on role in the running of the club.

“When we say ‘This means more’ we're not paying lip service to a catchy strapline like some super clubs,” the club tweeted, borrowing a marketing catchline used by Liverpool FC in recent seasons.

“At your local club fans know how much it really does mean. We're not about TV deals or executive boxes – it’s about passion, belonging and pride in your town and club. Support local.”

Glentoran, too, were keen to point to the attraction of Irish League football: “Community, camaraderie, tradition, shared highs and lows. From generation to generation. Support local. Support football. Football is nothing without fans. Simple as that.”

No doubt they’d also point out that the league is strengthening, the Glens one of four clubs now implementing some form of full-time model along with Linfield, Larne and Crusaders.

For Larne FC director Joel Neill, the Irish League is an obvious alternative to fans becoming disillusioned with the clubs involved in the new competition.

“Angry about the European Super League?” he asked. “There’s real, authentic, unspoiled, quality, fan-first, community driven football on your doorstep. I think we’ve all watched enough sport from our living rooms this past year. When restrictions ease - and they will- go and find it.”

There will no doubt be much water pass under the newly-formed European Super League bridge over coming weeks but plenty of fans are currently feeling that Sunday’s announcement has poisoned their relationships with their clubs.

The Irish League reckons it can provide the antidote.

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