Independent Order to boycott Sunday match

Sunday matches have provoked opposition from some quarters
Sunday matches have provoked opposition from some quarters

The Independent Loyal Orange Institution has added its voice to those who have been left disappointed and dismayed by the decision to play an international football match at Windsor Park on a Sunday.

The order said it was “conscious that our members throughout the Province intend to boycott” the European qualifier against Finland next year.

In a statement released yesterday, the organisation, which says it has 500-plus members, many of whom “are faithful Northern Ireland fans”, said it had been left “extremely disappointed” when the decision to play the home game on March 29, 2015 was announced.

Retired Free Presbyterian Minister David McIlveen is already an outspoken critic of the Sunday match, and is planning to stage a protest at the stadium.

The IFA has stated that it did not have any say in when the Euro 2016 qualifiers would be played, a decision taken by governing body UEFA.

But the Independent Order said: “There appears to be a total disregard for the Lord’s Day in the age in which we live, and we believe that this further desecration of the Lord’s Day is evidence of a move away from the Christian principles we hold dearly.”

The statement added: “We call upon the IFA to revisit this decision and inform UEFA that due to public opinion and concern, the IFA would like to have the game rearranged to any day other than a Sunday and so allow everyone the opportunity to attend.

“We would implore the Irish Football Association to take all actions necessary to have this game rearranged and so keep Sunday special.”

Speaking to the News Letter earlier this month Northern Ireland World Cup hero Gerry Armstrong said Northern Ireland is “well behind the times” when it comes to Sunday football, and added that any kind of appeal to UEFA’s decision would be pointless.

“If they [Uefa] tell the Irish FA that they’re going to have to play on a Sunday, then they’re going to have to play on a Sunday,” he said.

“It is going on in all the other countries for a long time and there’s no hassle, no problem, people just get on with it.”