It comes amid a wave of revulsion at proposals for a new kind of mid-week football contest involving teams from England and the continent.
However, the planned “super league” has a number of bizarre quirks; for one, it will be impossible to either qualify for, or be relegated.
Instead the league is basically an invitation-only affair, which would include at least six English teams (Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs, Man Utd, Man City, Arsenal) plus teams from Spain and Italy.
Left out altogether would be German clubs like Bayern Munich, Dutch clubs like Ajax, and French ones like PSG – as well as Scotland’s top two teams, Rangers and Celtic.
Many fans have remarked that the move is driven by a desire to simply wring more money out of the teams involved, with Gary Lineker saying his reaction was one of “alarm and disgust”.
In the last couple of days the Twitter accounts of Coleraine, Glenavon, Larne, Ballyclare, Loughgall and others have featured calls for fans to switch their attention from England to teams in their own communities.
Typical of them was this tweet from Portadown FC: “We’re not about TV deals or executive boxes – its about passion, belonging & pride in your town & club. Support local.”
Former FIFA vice-president James Boyce (who also used to be IFA president and Cliftonville chairman) told the News Letter: “I’m absolutely 100% convinced that the supporters of all these major clubs are totally disgusted to see what the clubs are trying to do.
“I hope UEFA and FIFA are very strong in killing this thing before it gets off the ground.
“There’s many people in NI support these major clubs. I honestly believe that should this happen, a lot of them will lose a lot of their allegiance to these clubs, and hopefully will come back to watch Irish League football.
“Money has taken over many of these clubs. Of course, the vast majority of them – if not all of them you’ve mentioned – are owned by billionaires, people not even from England... People who are investing for one reason: money.”
Once spectators are allowed to get to Irish League games again, he said: “I’ve no doubt you’ll see an increase in numbers.”
David Jeffrey, former Linfield manager now in charge of Ballymena, told the News Letter a huge amount of legwork has already been done to increase spectators of Irish League games, so he does not think the current furore will add much to that “strong and vibrant support base”.
But speaking of the new league, he said: “It’s rather a shame when you think of Manchester United and Liverpool in particular – where they came from. It epitomised the whole working class nature of the game.
“That’s been forgotten about. Roy Keane probably got it right a long time ago – he talked about the ‘prawn sandwiches brigade’ [a reference to corporate and VIP spectators].
“I think it’s a very sad day.”
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