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Coleraine chairman reveals his fury over talks exclusion



Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry

Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry

©INPHO/Lorcan Doherty

Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry

I'm still angry but I will rise above it - so says Coleraine Chairman Colin McKendry as he reflects on a turbulent week.

McKendry insists he was outraged to find out he and his club had been excluded from discussions among rival sides about the way forward for Irish League football.

Matters came to a head during a meeting on Thursday night, with McKendry one of the most vocal in a very stormy debate.

At the heart of it were the proposals made by the Northern Ireland Football League Steering Group, recommending finishing the season after two more League games and playing the Irish Cup to a finish, or settling the Premiership using a mathematical formula.

Coleraine and Linfield were the only clubs backing the first of the two proposals last Tuesday night, before a suggestion was made by independent moderator Les Caul to nominate the three clubs to play in Europe using standings after teams had faced each other home and away once - the so-called '22-game' proposal.

This was backed by Glentoran and Carrick Rangers at the outset of Thursday night's meeting and prompted angry exchanges as Coleraine realised they, along with Linfield and Cliftonville, had been excluded.

McKendry reveals he and his board are not averse to some form of UEFA prize money distribution and is hopeful a solution can be found, but he still feels the process could have been handled better.

"How would you feel if nine of your colleagues left the room to conduct a secret meeting designed to exclude you from your rightful place?" asks McKendry.

"I was angry at the time and I remain fired up, but I will rise above it and do what is right for both my club and the game as a whole.

"All along, from the very start of this coronavirus crisis, I have called for unity amongst the clubs and, to be honest, that's why I felt aggrieved that we were excluded from discussions.

"I thought Thursday night's meeting was absurd. It was not a formal Premiership meeting, it was an informal discussion between the 12 clubs to try and find common ground and a way forward.

"At the start of the meeting, a ludicrous proposal was put forward and a vote was called for but couldn't take place because it was not a formal meeting. It's not a proposal that was acceptable to Coleraine. We want solutions that are acceptable to everyone. I realise there are no perfect solutions to please everyone, but we must work together.

"We've had a bad week. There are 12 clubs in the top flight in Northern Ireland, we play each other at least four times a season and we need to ensure we have a good working relationship.

"The truth is we at Coleraine felt insulted by the proposal to use League standings after 22 games in the season and we made it clear where we stood.

"However, whilst we felt insulted, we look forward to finding a solution and we believe the issues will be resolved this week once we get more information from UEFA after their meeting on Wednesday.

"I can understand why the clubs felt they had to meet without ourselves, Linfield and Cliftonville, but it was difficult to accept. It would have been better had we been involved - it would have saved a lot of unnecessary bad feeling.

"We are now rising above it and our stated goal is to complete the League and Cup if possible, with some model of sharing prize money to be looked at."

Belfast Telegraph