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Irish FA should simply be open and honest about where UEFA money is going

Liam Beckett


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The Irish FA received a £3.7m share of UEFA's Hat-Trick funding.

The Irish FA received a £3.7m share of UEFA's Hat-Trick funding.

PA

The Irish FA received a £3.7m share of UEFA's Hat-Trick funding.

Although the seemingly never-ending saga to terminate the domestic League season by a mathematical formula was declared last week, it certainly hasn't met with every club's approval.

As I fully expected, the likes of Institute, Ballinamallard United, PSNI and Portstewart have already lodged appeals against the decision, levelling probing questions and citing sporting integrity in unprecedented times.

Some have also questioned a seeming reluctance by the Irish Football Association to satisfactorily hand over more of the £3.7m payment from UEFA to help clubs already struggling financially as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since I was contacted last week by a club, I've been making some enquiries as to why so little from this considerable amount of money has been handed out so far and some of the answers were pretty interesting.

It appears that UEFA's Hat-Trick fund is not new money for the Association. It had already been due but was brought forward from next season to cope with the emergency.

The Irish FA had, therefore, already budgeted for a great deal of this cash - be it in the senior game, women's football, disability football or the general running of the Association.

UEFA sent the money out early to help with any shortfall arising from the Covid-19 shutdown which, from an IFA perspective, relates heavily to Northern Ireland's home games in the autumn.

Without fans in attendance, it will set the IFA back a reported £1.5m, which will be covered by the Hat-Trick funding.

It transpires that the senior game will benefit in some capacity, but it is likely the Irish FA will not hand any additional money out until the new season, when financial hardships will really hit due to players no longer being on furlough, gate receipts being down, social club takings reduced and businesses unable to support clubs through sponsorship.

I gather the feeling is if the money was dished out now, the natural thing for some to do would be to use it to strengthen their squads.

There are, in review, quite a few sensible and some debatable reasons in there, but why on earth were these facts and figures not made much more transparent and brought into the public domain much sooner?

That would surely have helped to curtail the swell of criticism and scepticism that was levelled at our governing body.

Just tell the people fairly and squarely what's happening and do it in a prompt manner - that's all they ask.

Back after time aport

With the vast majority of recent attention centred around the Danske Bank Premiership and the astonishing amount of time it took to get it all sorted out, it has practically gone unnoticed that next season we can all welcome Portadown back to the top tier, and I, for one, am delighted.

The prospect of going back to cover games at Shamrock Park is always a pleasurable one, but I honestly feel the Ports will bring much more than just a warm welcome and hospitality to the table next season.

Manager Matthew Tipton has slowly but surely and methodically built an excellent squad of youth and experience at the club and I am firmly convinced they will give a really good account of themselves once the action starts for real.

One of my main reasons for saying that is that I feel the club itself is already geared for the Premiership and Shamrock Park is a venue where visiting teams will know they've been in a game.

Yes, for a few years the County Armagh outfit appeared to have lost their way somewhat with quite a few changes taking place both on the pitch and in the boardroom as well, but thankfully it would now appear that the turbulence has subsided and that some form of normality and stability has returned.

Better times ahead seem pretty much guaranteed, and that has to be great news for Irish League football, including Portadown's Mid-Ulster rivals Glenavon, who can once again look forward to those hotly contested derbies.

Water we putting up with all these stoppages for?

I love watching a game of football, although I've got to admit that it's pretty much as a last resort that I tune into behind-closed-doors Premier League matches.

While the vast majority of the ones I've watched have been dire, it's still football and it's still live action.

Even given the fact it's the top teams in England playing without the presence of fans, it actually underlines to me just how good a product we have here in the Irish League.

It's only to be expected that any game played in an empty stadium is going to lack atmosphere, but the entire spectacle is now spoiled even more by these newly introduced basketball-style time out periods midway through each half.

It's yet another sports science initiative aimed at helping players reacclimatise to playing football again after several months' enforced lay-off.

It will also probably have been introduced to help players cope with what's described as a 'condensed schedule', with most teams having to play two games per week.

In theory, that all makes sense. In practical terms, however, it makes a mockery of what the game is all about.

I've also heard it mentioned that these additional time outs help lower the risk of soft tissue injuries, which are more probable when players are fatigued and dehydrated - again, though, I fail to see the logic in this argument.

Surely to goodness their weekly training schedule can be tailored to suit the physical demand on the players?

I'm sick, sore and tired of saying that we already have far too many unnecessary stoppages in football as it is and now we have to endure another insult to our intelligence.

Can you imagine if you were a paying customer who'd handed over hard-earned money to watch these stop-start games? What a rip-off.

Belfast Telegraph