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Our stadiums are safe so Executive should agree to let the fans back in, say Boyce and McGivern



Jim Boyce, former IFA president

Jim Boyce, former IFA president

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Jim Boyce, former IFA president

Former FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce and Linfield chairman Roy McGivern have urged the football authorities and NI Executive to get fans back into stadiums.

The Irish FA are talking to Stormont officials and clubs are hoping supporters will be back in grounds next month.

Non-elite outdoor team sport, without spectators, can restart on April 23, with participant numbers not exceeding 100.

But fans are still waiting for the green light to return to Danske Bank Premiership matches for the first time since December 19.

Managers including Cliftonville boss Paddy McLaughlin and Larne's Tiernan Lynch have argued that supporters should be allowed to return to grounds.

And fans have questioned why they are being kept out of venues when premises such as restaurants, beer gardens and cafes can open outdoors on April 30 along with all retail outlets.

While the Irish FA are hopeful some fans will be able to attend the Irish Cup semi-finals on May 18 and the final at Mourneview Park on May 21, clubs want supporters back in sooner than that.

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In England, the penultimate round of Premier League matches will be played on May 18 and 19 so each team can play a home game in front of up to 10,000 fans.

Former IFA president Boyce said: "I saw no reason why fans were stopped coming to grounds. The clubs implemented the most stringent Covid-19 measures and I hope the Executive allow up to 500 fans into grounds from now until the end of the season. Let's give everyone a lift because the matches behind closed doors are soul-destroying for all of us."

Blues chief McGivern said: "I was in touch with the Northern Ireland Football League this week asking that we lobby the Executive to permit limited numbers of fans back into local grounds before the end of the season. Clubs are ready and willing to facilitate this in a safe environment and I think it is definitely possible by May."

A Department for Communities spokesperson said: "The return of spectators to sporting events is in Phase 4 of the Executive's pathway out of restrictions.

"In the meantime, the Department continues to engage with representatives from the governing bodies on a regular basis to ensure that, when it is safe for people to gather in larger numbers, the appropriate protocols can be put in place which will allow spectators to return to Covid-safe sports venues."

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