The merited criticism (April 12) of the price hike for Irish Cup final tickets is not the only faux pas that has been committed by the Irish FA this week.
The Intermediate Cup final between Linfield Swifts and my club Limavady United, showpiece of the second tier of the domestic game, will not now be held at the national stadium, but at Ballyclare on a Friday evening.
Meanwhile the Junior Cup final gets a Bank holiday outing at Windsor Park. Both the League Cup final and County Antrim Shield final were moved from Windsor Park earlier this season, ostensibly on grounds of cost
Given the decision to stage the Junior Cup final at the national stadium, the excuse of cost cannot wash, although I understand that the Intermediate final was hawked around various grounds until one was found that was cheap enough.
For many years the Intermediate and Junior cups have been held together, with great success, yet this year the juniors get Windsor Park to themselves on May Day.
The word on the street is that the Intermediate committee thinks there will be no atmosphere in an 18,000 capacity stadium. That the ground would not be full is obvious, if sad, but that is no excuse for moving our final. Football matches are for players first and foremost, and our players must feel bitterly disappointed by the lack of respect shown for their efforts by this late change of venue.
The decision is a kick in the teeth for all intermediate players and supporters. If the IFA is serious about domestic football – and very few local observers think that it is – -then the national stadium should stage national cup finals.
If the IFA cannot afford to underwrite the cost of opening a stadium which they lease, and which was funded at vast public expense, in a year when it is in its best financial position for decades, the question has to be asked what sort of organisation is running our local game.
How is the decision on where to hold a national final left until three weeks beforehand? What does that lack of planning show to potential sponsors?
I cannot imagine that they will be overjoyed wth their reward for financial support being a competition marketed with the strap line “the road to Dixon Park, Ballyclare”.
The IFA must be unique, in that it has priced itself out of the stadium that it manages!
David Brewster, Limavady