Coleraine FC loss shows all is still not well at the IFA

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Today sees the start of a new local football season and all fans of Irish League clubs will have been hoping that we can build on the feel good factor from the Northern Ireland national team’s performances in France this summer.

This Saturday sees the start of a new local football season and all fans of Irish League clubs will have been hoping that we can build on the feel good factor from the Northern Ireland National team’s performances in France this summer.

Unfortunately the latest administrative shambles to befall the local game, this time relating to Portadown FC, has completely taken the shine off the start of a new season and walked local football into another PR disaster.

I, and hundreds of other Coleraine fans, will be denied the opportunity to watch our team on Saturday due to the IFA ‘s deision to suspend Portadown FC for non payment of a £5,000 fine. The absurdity of the IFA’s position is that Coleraine FC will be punished by losing out on a home gate and bar takings far in excess of the fine imposed on the Ports. Where is the justice in that?

We should be talking about the high profile signings of Nacho Novo, Paddy McCourt, Roy Carroll and Sammy Clingan and how they can help attract back some lapsed supporters and encourage some people to give the local game a go for the first time.

We should be talking about how Crusaders will fare as they aim for a hat-trick of Titles; how successful David Healy will be as he bids to reclaim the Gibson Cup for Linfield; how big an impact David Jeffrey will have at Ballymena and how close Glenavon and Cliftonville are to making a real Title challenge.

We should also be challenging the people who seem to look down on the Irish League without ever having been to a game.

The fact remans that at £10 for adults, the local game represents good value for money. It can also provide excitement and entertainment in abundance and there is an honesty about the Irish League and a connection with local communities that has long since been lost across the water due to the astronomical money that has been poured into the game over there by Sky. In any case, for all the vast sums of money spent on players and wages in the English Premiership - not to mention ticket prices - there is no guarantee of seeing a good game.

Most local football fans pick an English and maybe also a Scottish side to follow, and Im no different. But there is nothing to contend with the sense of belonging of following your local team, the one which your father and grandfather took you to watch as a child. As someone born and bred in the Coleraine area, there was only one team for me. Watching football on tv is no substitute for the real thing. There really is nothing quite like being there.

This is what the IFA should be concentrating on in a bid to promote and grow the game, bring forward stars of the future and look after the people that matter - the paying customers. Punishing Coleraine FC for an offence committed by Portadown FC and cancelling a game on the first day of a new season is further proof that when it cmnes to running local football, all is still not well at the IFA.

Stephen Barr, Portstewart