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Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry's radical plan to finish Irish Premiership season


Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry

Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry

Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry

Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry has suggested a radical idea to finish the Irish Premiership season which would see ALL top-flight games played at Windsor Park and the Ballymena Showgrounds.

With the coronavirus pandemic ongoing, McKendry insists that medical advice relating to football in Northern Ireland returning is paramount but points out that should the government give the go-ahead plans need to be in place for the game here to resume.

Each club has seven games remaining in the Danske Bank Premiership with Linfield leading McKendry's Coleraine by four points.

"Playing two games a day at Windsor and Ballymena could be up for debate. If there is a will and desire to finish this League we have to find a way. It is an idea that definitely needs to be given thought," he said.

Germany's Bundesliga is set to return behind closed doors on Saturday with the English Premier League hoping for a resumption in June, while, even closer to home, the FAI have been putting forward ideas for the League of Ireland to start again.

There have been no fixtures played in Northern Ireland since early March and officially the IFA have postponed all football until the end of this month. UEFA must be informed by May 25 if the Irish League season will be extended.

We need to adapt to this unprecedented situation and be flexible and look outside the box Colin McKendry

On Monday, a Fixtures Sub Committee will discuss what happens next with a key NIFL Premiership Committee meeting scheduled for Wednesday. Bannsiders chief McKendry appreciates the difficulty of the situation relating to football returning but believes every option must be explored.

"The most important aspect is health and the safety of all but if the medical people advise the government that we can go back to play football, we have to be in a position where we have a plan to do that," says McKendry.

"We need to adapt to this unprecedented situation and be flexible and look outside the box. With spectators unlikely to be allowed in to watch games for some time, we would be losing valuable revenue so substantial financial assistance would be needed by the clubs to finish the season.

"That's where we need to have an adult conversation with our Association who can go to UEFA on our behalf to try and get funds if it is deemed safe to finish the season.

"How do we do that? I think there are only two grounds where you could play games, one is the national stadium at Windsor Park and the other is the Ballymena Showgrounds. They are new grounds with spacious environments and have the accessibility, changing facilities and referees rooms that could be utilised safely.

"You can also play two games a day at these grounds. You could switch Linfield and Ballymena games from their own grounds so all of us are in the same boat playing away from home."

McKendry admits that Covid-19 tests for everyone involved in matches may not be possible, suggesting that temperature tests may be an option.

He adds: "I appreciate you would have to have buy in and confidence from everyone in relation to that and a willingness. If there is any doubt at all, I don't think you can do it.

"I make it clear that, while we ought to look at ways of finishing the season, one death of any human being is not worth taking a risk for and health and safety should be our biggest priority."

McKendry says that if no way is found for the season to finish, the IFA, NIFL and all clubs must have a "tough and honest conversation" about how they would end the campaign in relation to titles, European places, relegation and promotion.

Wisely, he states: "We should not get ourselves into a divisive situation where one group wants something and another group wants something else. We can see how Scottish football is divided right now and we don't want that here. We all have to be in this together."

Belfast Telegraph