Soccer restructuring proposals scrapped

CONTROVERTIAL plams tp ‘restructure’ intermediate football in Northern Ireland have been shelved due to the coronavirus crisis.

In September 2019, the council wrote to the Irish Football Association to express concerns regarding the decision to implement the Intermediate Football Restructure Project.

Subsequently Council invited the IFA to arrange for representatives to attend committee to make a presentation on the issue, but officers were advised that the proposed restructuring of intermediate football was under further review.

The council has now received correspondence from the IFA, advising that due to the financial impact of COVID-19 on the IFA and its key stakeholders, the planned restructure of the intermediate game has been ‘discontinued at this time’.

Voicing his concerns about the changes last year, Robert Foster of the UUP noted that IFA wanted to ‘reduce the number of clubs from 117 to 68’.

He said that they also want a stand at each ground which is capable of accommodating 50 people.

“You are lucky to get 10 people watching these games,” he said.

“They have proposed screening on fences to stop people from looking at the game from the outside.

“Using Mossley Pavillion as an example, no other activities can take place when a game is on

“Only one game can be played even if two pitches are available

“They wish to see a dedicated barrier to get players from the changing room to the pitch.

“Councils paying for these upgrades to their facilities is not a value for money investment of rate payers’ money in my opinion.

“Changes could cost in the region of £20,000 plus per ground - and the Council own three.

“Clubs who have their own grounds will never be able to afford the upgrades and will probably fold.

“It will also mean that no new clubs will ever be able to join the intermediate leagues as they won’t have grounds that are suitable in the eyes of the IFA.”

Mr Foster argued his belief that these change would ‘do nothing to raise the standard of the game at this level’.

He also said that the offer of one million euros in funding from the IFA would ‘not even scratch the surface’.

“The IFA failed to conduct any form of stakeholder engagement prior to releasing these draconian proposals,” he continued.

“When the IFA want something they are very quick to seek assistance and it’s disappointing that they haven’t had the decency to consult widely before issuing these proposals.

“The effect this will have on local community football teams cannot be underestimated and players who aspire to better themselves and play at a very decent standard of football will be denied the opportunity.

“These proposals seek to make intermediate football a league for the few and not the many.

“In short, these proposals do nothing to enhance the game at this level and are yet another example in a catalogue of poor governance and engagement by the IFA.

“I have asked our officers to invite the IFA to our operations meeting to try and justify these changes.

“But, what really needs to happen is the scrapping of these proposals and a full transparent consultation to be developed with all relevant stakeholders to ascertain all views and opinions ahead of the publishing of any recommendations rather than imposing unworkable and unwarranted measures on amateur league clubs at huge financial cause achieving little to no positive outputs.”

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