‘Remember the sabbath day...’: Northern Ireland’s biggest Protestant church voices worries over Sunday football as Linfield gets ready to clash with Portadown
It comes ahead of a string of fixtures due to take place on sabbath days in the weeks ahead.
The Irish League’s new season started last night with a clash between Larne and Glentoran at Inver Park – and the fixture list for August includes three Sunday fixtures.
Though football has taken place on Sundays before in Northern Ireland – not least the Cliftonville V Coleraine League Cup Final on March 13 (won by the former) – it remains exceedingly rare.
The three upcoming Sunday games are:
• Newry City v Linfield, 2pm, August 21
• Carrick Rangers v Linfield, 2pm, August 28
The reason given by Linfield is that the club has commitments to play in Europe throughout the month, causing scheduling problems.
Asked for its stance on games being scheduled for Sundays, a spokesman for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland told the News Letter: “The last time the General Assembly of our Church directly considered such issues was in 2008, on that occasion it was in response to the Irish Football Association’s decision to permit football matches on a Sunday.
“On that occasion, the General Assembly passed the following resolution:
“That in light of the decision of the IFA to allow competitive football on Sundays, the General Assembly express concern about professional sporting events which hinder or diminish attendance of Sunday worship, thus interfering with Christian practice as an established aspect of societal life.
“We recognise that attitudes in society, in relation to sporting and other events on Sundays, have continued to evolve and that they are more common place today.
“Nonetheless, the position of our Church remains unchanged.
“It is important that as far as possible those making decisions on sporting fixtures take account of both the views of those players who may not wish to participate, and also of those supporters who may feel excluded by regular Sunday fixtures.”
Back in 2021 when it was revealed the League Cup final would be on a Sunday, NI Football League boss Gerard Lawlor said: “I’m aware this is the first time a major domestic final will be played on a Sunday in Northern Ireland, but we have to continually evolve and look to what has worked for other major sporting events.”
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