Why can’t we make a decision in Northern Ireland and stick to it?
Over the years, the ineptitude in local politics has spread into football governance.
Former Irish FA President David Martin was renowned for ‘getting things done’ but even during his five-year term, which he concluded last Wednesday, he was left frustrated and exasperated at a lack of movement on a proposed National Training Centre and a change to summer football.
Now, as we enter another European campaign for our clubs who have qualified, they will once again need heroic efforts to get through a couple of rounds because yet again the football chiefs have dithered on a move to summer football.
Why is everyone scared of change? It is good to try things once in a while.
How do we know it is not going to be good unless we try it?
Studies, reports and surveys have all been carried out on a move to summer football and yet we are no further on.
The Irish FA have opened the door for the switch by rewriting their articles, but still no one at NIFL wants to make the leap.
Last week the Belfast Telegraph ran the results of a survey where they questioned Irish League players on whether they favoured a switch to summer football, but a decision like this is way above the players’ pay grade. And I say that as a former player.
There is too much emotional attachment and personal objectivity. They are commodities and this is a decision about what is best for the clubs and the League as a whole rather than whether a player doesn’t want to play because it will interfere with his summer holidays.
If I hear that excuse one more time, then I will simply crack up.
Players want to be treated like professionals but don’t want to make the sacrifices. I’m afraid that’s not how it works, guys. I had to make sacrifices throughout my career — both club and international — and I would have no issues in doing it all over again.
To prosper and improve in this life you need to gamble.
I’m a fan of the Irish Premiership moving to a summer season — I feel it ticks all the boxes for the League to improve.
Teams will finally be in season for European competition which means they’ll have a better chance of progressing and collecting valuable funds.
Our club co-efficent will improve and that will mean more money from UEFA which can be pumped back into the clubs, League and bring our facilities up to standard.
Clubs in the League are crying out for good training facilities but clubs could be given a chance to generate their own money to pay for this rather than wait and wait and wait for a government handout.
Grass pitches will be in better condition and with the light nights during summer, the costs of floodlighting will go down.
The professional clubs will likely train during the day but for those sides who still require to train in the evening, then they can use some of the excellent training facilities which don’t have floodlights, thus cutting down costs immediately.
There will be a trickle down effect in the League. It will not just be a case of those teams who qualify for Europe getting richer and the other teams suffering.
With the Academies which are being set up, they can nurture and develop their talent. Clubs like Linfield and Glentoran can only bring on board so many players and there will be more than enough talent to go around.
So the time for talking is over — no more consultations or feedback on expressions of interest.
NIFL football chiefs need to be bold and brave, make a decision and implement it.
Decide on a timeframe and do not waver from it.
We’ve already missed out on any switch happening at the end of the new season so we are at least a couple if not three years away — but do not waste any more time.
The situation with Covid would have been the perfect chance to make the switch due to the delay last year. It was a missed opportunity.
Going forward, if we are to move to summer football, there will be fixture congestion and a short break for the transition but the clubs and League need to look at the bigger picture and endure a few years of pain.
This country, as a whole, needs to stop being so afraid of change.
If ever a man deserved a royal honour for his services and immense contribution to sport and the community, then it is my old boss David Jeffrey.
It’s been a couple of weeks now since David joined me as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) but I couldn’t be happier for him and his family.
He’s achieved the lot in the domestic game but it’s how he’s gone about it with dignity and professionalism that I feel really endears him to the players who played for him.
David is a huge character, has a massive personality and his enthusiasm for the game is infectious.
I remember when I signed for Linfield as a teenager, Trevor Anderson was coming to the end of his spell as manager and David was his assistant.
David then took over as manager, probably around the same time I was attending my first training session with Linfield.
I played for the Youth team, Athletic and Swifts but when I was 18 I knew I wanted first-team football and with the likes of stalwarts Noel Bailie and Winkie Murphy ahead of me there was no way I was getting a look in so my pathway was blocked. I knew I needed to leave the biggest club in the country.
But to do that, I needed to ask David to allow my release.
It was an ominous task for an 18-year-old, knocking on David’s door and saying that you knew you were at the best club in Ireland but because you couldn’t see a future there, you wanted to go elsewhere. I needed a lot of courage that night.
However, David was brilliant with me and was great about the situation. He tried to encourage me to stay but also understood where I was coming from.
At Linfield winning is the only option and so experimenting with an 18-year-old in defence when you had your reliable senior players available would have been too much of a gamble.
I went out on loan to Larne Tech Old Boys and Ballyclare Comrades before Crusaders boss Gary McCartney came in for me and I signed for the Crues.
However, I’ll always be grateful to David for the manner in which he handled my exit.
David, though, didn’t just receive the honour for football, it’s his incredible work as a Senior Social Worker in Larne, my home town, which has helped so many individuals and families.
His caring, considerate and selfless attitude means he will always have my total respect and admiration.
He, of course, has been humbled by the gong and wants to share it with his family and those who have helped him along the way, but in this instance David, this honour is just for you and so fully deserved.
I was surprised to hear the Northern Ireland Football League were buying life-saving defibrillators for each member club last week.
It’s a great initiative and one I fully support as in this column two weeks ago I detailed my own horrific experience of a team-mate suffering a cardiac arrest at half-time during a Cup match in England.
NIFL chiefs have obviously acted on the back of the awful incident involving Christian Eriksen at the Euros and I commend them for this.
But the reason why I am surprised is because in this day and age, I thought having a portable defibrillator at a ground where competitive sport is played would have been a prerequisite.
Anyway, better late than never…