First and foremost, as I sit back and become more embedded in my day job. I hope common sense prevails for the safety of everyone. Constant calling for the leagues to be started again without a clear cure for the virus ‘COVID-19’ is not the answer. Everyone is missing the great game but you learn to get on with life, especially those people who are not used to being stuck in the house. But I hope that the correct decisions are made and they are for the safety of everyone. Hopefully, we do see an end to the season.
It has been reassuring to see that the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) have been waiting for direction from the European Governing body – UEFA – on how they are going to finish this season. It is inevitable that one way or another the season will finish. The money which is at stake through TV and major sponsors will be the driving force behind it. Be it that games are played behind closed doors or later in the year – it will happen.
UEFA has set up two working groups to try and work out a plan to get the seasons up and running again. Every league around the world has come to a standstill. With the exception of Belarus. Only over the last week or so we have seen the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL), put themselves in the limelight. They have come up with their own way of how they will finish the league. I really hope the NIFL do not follow the crazy way they have gone about this. UEFA are planning to hold a video conference late on Tuesday to update on how they wish to finish the seasons. Maybe the SPFL should have waited for this instead of coming up with the interesting ideas they have pushed through.
UEFA are hoping to end the season by August. But this brings me back to my first point – is it really going to be safe by then? Can we really – without an antibiotic even ready for mass production – be thinking that this will happen. The NIFL has clearly stated they will take the guidance of UEFA as and when they produce it.
Times are hard for all clubs around Northern Ireland, but it is the same with people that are out of work. It will be hard for clubs to come back from this. Some clubs have been able to furlough their staff and players, but the big wage earners in the league have not. Some of the clubs have endless money pots, but it is going to hurt them all financially. There will need to be some support coming from somewhere.
A few managers have asked for the European money for next season be split fairly between the clubs. But what is fair? Who will the league push forward for the European games? How do we confirm who the Champions will be? For me at the other end of the table is the ding-dong battle between last place Institute and the team in the relegation playoff place Warrenpoint Town. There are only 3 points between them.
On a plus side, it has been great to see clubs like Dungannon Swifts and Crusaders getting great press with the wonderful work they are doing in the own community. As a Crues fan, it is great to see what the club are doing by providing 3000 meals a week to the vulnerable in the area. A great gesture and I am sure that it has been well received.
Also this week Glentoran owner ‘Ali Pour’ donated 10,000 protective masks to support frontline care workers. Further to that, he donated 300 large bottles of hand sanitiser to help assist workers in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. Well done to everyone involved within the clubs.
Uncertain times all over the world but the health of every individual is paramount. Get on twitter and watch some of the wonderful old footage. It has been great to see clips from the ’90s of the magical Sid Burrows or even re-runs of some of the great games. But together we will all get through this and get back to watching what we love from the stands and terraces. Stay safe everyone and look out for each other.