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Matthew Tipton: A shortened season could provide a fair conclusion for Irish League campaign

 

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Big calls: Matthew Tipton wants a fair conclusion but feels playing into summer is impossible

Big calls: Matthew Tipton wants a fair conclusion but feels playing into summer is impossible

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Big calls: Matthew Tipton wants a fair conclusion but feels playing into summer is impossible

Portadown manager Matthew Tipton has called on Irish League chiefs to consider shortening the league campaign to settle outstanding issues.

The Irish FA have suspended all football matches until April 4 but if the coronavirus crisis deepens, that date will be an optimistic target.

Many questions need to be answered, not least which Championship clubs can reach the promised land of the Danske Bank Premiership.

The Shamrock Park men were relegated to the Championship in April 2017 and they also lost a pre-play-off game last year to Carrick Rangers, condemning them to another campaign in the second tier.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, the mid-Ulster men were four points clear of second-placed Loughgall after 31 games, with Ballinamallard United six points adrift of the leaders with a game in hand.

The 38-game season has been brought to a sudden halt and while there is a NIFL Premiership Management Committee meeting today, with conference calls for the Championship and Premier Intermediate Leagues also scheduled, no one can predict when normal service will resume within football.

Tipton has suggested NIFL chiefs could look at shortening the season to resolve the pressing matters.

"Let's be realistic, are we going to get seven games in? Probably not," he argued. "We also can't take our guidelines off the English Premier League. They are full-time professionals who train every day, we are not.

"We can't cram seven games into a fortnight, it just won't work. For me, the most reasonable solution is if you want everything decided, you finish the last few games which leaves a natural conclusion of 33 matches, everybody has played each other three times.

"In other leagues the situation may be more complicated but we want a fair conclusion.

"It's not an ideal solution but we need matters decided like the Irish Cup, promotion and relegation and the European places.

"Hopefully we can play again sometime in April and wrap things up in May but who knows.

"We don't know when we can start playing again."

The former Oldham and Macclesfield Town ace doesn't believe an extension is an option.

"I don't believe we can play in June or July because players' contracts will be finished," added the 39-year-old. "Why would players play then, some of them may be moving to another club.

"If we don't get promoted some players might not sign for us. Too many things are up in the air so football needs to be finished by the beginning of June.

"Also, Uefa will want to know who is playing in Europe and are we going to scrap that?

"I'd love to play the seven games and whatever happens I don't want anyone talking about a title win for any club that is tainted in any way."

The Ports players trained last Thursday but all plans were put on hold when NIFL issued their statement calling off the games on Friday.

Tipton feels matches in Northern Ireland could have gone ahead despite the Premier League in England bringing the curtain down on their activities.

"No one knows what will happen but I feel we could have got away with playing last weekend," said the former Warrenpoint Town boss. "But I appreciate it was a hard call to make. Certainly I don't see the benefit of games being played behind closed doors. I felt we could have played with a limited crowd.

"If we did play behind closed doors, who will pay the bills? Clubs need gate receipts."

The loss of football will spark a huge financial headache for clubs and the Ports, who experienced cash flow issues when they dropped out of the top division, are not immune from that.

"Never mind the future, I think it's already affecting clubs," he added. "Ninety per cent of the people in the Championship would class themselves as amateur so it might not be a big problem but our players are on professional contracts and they need to be honoured.

"We have had financial worries but the board has got us in the position where we are realistic with regard to our funding. It's a wait and see scenario.

"Players get paid for 38 weeks of the season and if nothing is happening until the start of May do you stop payments and start them again? They are being paid until we get more information."

On a more positive note, Tipton said he's heard no reports of any health concerns affecting his squad.

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