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Gray questions logic behind NIFL decision to suspend season as Warrenpoint see Swifts duel called off

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Barry Gray (right) and Kris Lindsay at Milltown after Saturday's clash between Warrenpoint Town and Dungannon Swifts was called off

Barry Gray (right) and Kris Lindsay at Milltown after Saturday's clash between Warrenpoint Town and Dungannon Swifts was called off

Barry Gray (right) and Kris Lindsay at Milltown after Saturday's clash between Warrenpoint Town and Dungannon Swifts was called off

Warrenpoint Town manager Barry Gray has questioned the logic of the Northern Ireland Football League Board's decision to take a break and postpone Danske Bank Premiership matches for the next fortnight.

While both Gray and Dungannon Swifts boss Kris Lindsay agreed the right call was made - albeit late - to postpone their League game at Milltown yesterday due to a frozen pitch, the pair had different viewpoints on a bigger call from the authorities the night before which means no top-flight fixtures are scheduled to take place until January 23.

The decision by NIFL, supported by the Irish Football Association, was made in response to growing concerns among people in the game and outside it about rising coronavirus figures.

Lindsay said: "I think it is the right decision. Yes, of course we would like to play football and want that sense of normality, but you have to look at the bigger picture.

"We are a predominantly part-time League and we have to consider players and staff members who have vulnerable people at home. Many of us also have day jobs and for us to continue with football at this stage and potentially put added pressure on the NHS would be wrong.

"You also have to look at staff within clubs and medical staff in particular. The vast majority of medical staff within the League work within the NHS. They are taking risks for football to continue so if they have to isolate because of football it takes more staff away from the NHS. The break is the sensible thing to do."

Asked about the two-week break, Gray said: "Well, it's not a two-week break because we get to come back to training next Monday so it is a one-week break. It just sounds better when you say it is a two-week break.

"Also, had our game with Dungannon gone ahead, it would have been deemed we would have been safe to play on a Saturday but not the next day!

"I don't see the logic in it, I really don't.

"I understand how it looks from a PR point of view and how great we are to do this but I believe the decision has been made because it has been pressured by people who perceive the image of it to be right as opposed to the detail.

"For me, and this is a personal view and doesn't represent Warrenpoint, from a business point of view we are here to run football at elite level so either we are elite-level athletes or we are not. We don't get to pick and choose when we want to be and when we don't.

"How many active cases have we in the League at the moment? My understanding is that it's quite small. Just because there are positive cases inside our football family it doesn't mean football is to blame.

"As a League, we fought tooth and nail to get back playing this season, put all our procedures in place and now we are taking a break when the Government says we can continue to play.

"I'm all for keeping people safe but we have chosen - yes, chosen - to stop football for a week and my question is, based on what? What happens when there is the next spike? Do we stop football again? Because this pandemic isn't going away.

"Either we continue to stop and start like this or we play like proper elite sports people unless Government tells us to stop."

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