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I fear Irish League fiasco could cause irreparable damage

Liam Beckett


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ROCK THE VOTE: Coleraine and Linfield were two of the three clubs to back the NIFL’s two-match proposal

ROCK THE VOTE: Coleraine and Linfield were two of the three clubs to back the NIFL’s two-match proposal

�INPHO/Brian Little

ROCK THE VOTE: Coleraine and Linfield were two of the three clubs to back the NIFL’s two-match proposal

IT'S complex, difficult and unprecedented but, provided that the final decision is made by proper football people, then I'm okay with it.

But my goodness, what else can I say about this week's extraordinary series of meetings, comments, claims and counter-claims, other than the fact that there were no winners because all we succeeded in doing was feed the sceptics of Irish League football with enough ammunition to last them a lifetime.

What at one stage seemed to be a relatively simple and straightforward procedure quickly descended into one almighty mess.

There were so many fingers being pointed that it's a miracle no one lost an eye.

The final two options submitted to the clubs by the NI Football League Steering Group had fans genuinely dreaming that they were nearing a solution of sorts that would finally lead to a resumption of our game.

Alas, we should all know by now that nothing contentious is ever simply remedied in Northern Ireland - we take it to the absolute limit and beyond.

Option one, which suggested a two-match return, was quickly binned, while the other proposal that would have seen final Premiership positions determined by a mathematical model was likewise dismissed.

Then news broke that nine clubs - everyone apart from Linfield, Coleraine and Cliftonville - had reached some form of agreement, but their plan would take additional time to cement so, once again, the so-called absolute deadline was put back.

Some clubs felt backed into a corner by the two proposals on the table and the short space of time being given to digest and consider them.

Talks then ran into Friday, when it was announced that discussions would continue once UEFA had shed some light on their new European schedule this Wednesday. Assuming they still require Euro nominees by August 3, time is scarce, to say the least.

Nevertheless, there's no disguising the fact that all of this 'he said, she said', nudge-nudge, wink-wink stuff will lead to bad blood and shred that myth that we are all one big happy family.

I genuinely feel this fiasco could cause irreparable damage.

It's obvious that any decision arrived at here wasn't going to please everyone, but if I had to be critical it would be that a lot of the PR and prompt clarity with regard to updates from the various bodies - particularly during the early stages - has been sketchy and even shabby at best.

Fans like to be kept updated and abreast of all that's going on and they're perfectly within their rights to feel short-changed on this occasion.

I'm old-school and of course I want all winners and losers to be determined on the field of play if at all possible, but I am also well aware that I am not involved directly at the coal face and am not therefore properly qualified to comment on the pitfalls, costs and financial implications which many clubs face.

I doubt if even the world's best fortune teller could predict the outcome of this debacle so, if you don't mind, I'm away to lie down in a darkened room somewhere.

Give me a shout when this is all over.

Belfast Telegraph