Danske Bank Premiership

The NIFL has at last published the opening fixtures for the 2020/21 season. Weeks of uncertainty have come to an end and we now know where we are going to be playing games on the opening day of the season. Well if you’re the Crues, going by their twitter handle, their first game is at Dungannon Swifts – but it’s actually Warrenpoint Town. Such an interesting social media set-up they have at Seaview.

To my amazement, there is another issue. There has been no call on the number of fans that can safety watch the game or the number of fans that can be safely accommodated in grounds. Now correct me if I am wrong – this needs to come from the powers that be who run the game, who are in turn advised by the local government. So, how have the clubs got a say in this? Why are they making problems? Answer: money!

It seems clubs are wanting more fans in than will be physically safe and this will be to help pay the big wage bill. But the NIFL need to give the clarity on this – not the clubs. They need to sit down and shut up. Yet again we see Larne this week sell 600 tickets for a training game. Yes, you read that right, 600. So, is there a problem? Not really when you look at that figure.

I had been wondering myself over the last couple of weeks how the local clubs are staying afloat. I have always been an admirer of how certain clubs work the system and their finances within Northern Ireland. But at least they are all now following suit: playing friendly games and charging for the privilege to watch teams try and get ready for a season that is still just around the corner.

It brings me back to finances and the English game. The past week saw a professional club from the English lower leagues get wound up. Macclesfield Town tallied up debts to the amount of £500,000 – this a club with an average gate of 2,071. Maybe they should have had a word with Glentoran, they stayed in business with debts worse than that. We also have seen this week Southend United give until the end of October to come up with an outstanding tax debt of £493,991. A club with an average attendance of 6,932.

My point here is, these clubs are playing in a full-time professional league and are struggling to make ends meet. The Irish league clubs are powering on. Yes, Larne and Glentoran have the investors, but the rest have nothing. You could ask a question of your clubs if you’re a season ticket holder, did they pay you back the six matches from the split last season, or just take it as a generous donation? A few were asking that question at Seaview last week. In Larne’s case, the investor has pumped the money into the club to make it a better place both in terms of the infrastructure and on the playing front.

What have they done at the Oval? New dugouts and a gym. What about the stadium? Mick McDermott again this week was asking about funding for his club. Ironic when he has a multi-million-pound investor pumping money into the playing staff. But that’s the least of Mick’s worries after the signing that was made last week. I am not going on record here, but I will say people deserve a second chance. But there are certain things that you don’t deserve it for. I think it will be a long season ahead for Mick McDermott around the Irish league grounds.

So, Saturday 17th October 2020 will be the key date to the resumption to the Danske Bank Premiership. We have a couple of tasty fixtures to start us: last season’s runners-up Coleraine will have a derby day start as they will entertain Ballymena United. Another tasty fixture to get the season going will be Cliftonville at home to big-spending Glentoran.

Danske Bank Premiership

Date Home Away Venue
Saturday 17 October 2020 Cliftonville Glentoran Solitude
Saturday 17 October 2020 Coleraine Ballymena United Showgrounds
Saturday 17 October 2020 Glenavon Portadown Mournview
Saturday 17 October 2020 Larne Dungannon Swifts Inver
Saturday 17 October 2020 Linfield Carrick Rangers Windsor
Saturday 17 October 2020 Warrenpoint Town Crusaders Milltown