Speaking after Cork City became the island of Ireland’s only remaining representatives in European competition by reaching the first round proper of the UEFA Cup on Thursday night [25 August], Alliance Councillor Michael Long has said the progress of teams from south of the border illustrates clearly the case for summer football.
The Castlereagh Councillor stated, “Although Northern Ireland teams have performed relatively well in Europe this season, again they have been outshone by teams from the Republic such as Shelbourne and Cork City.
“The Setanta Cup showed clearly that there is no great gap in the quality of the respective leagues, but Southern sides have a clear advantage in Europe of already being halfway through their season when the qualifying rounds start. This was illustrated clearly when Glentoran met Shelbourne in this year’s Champions’ League preliminaries.
“The case for summer football in the North is therefore unanswerable. With big clubs such as Coleraine struggling for survival, and our leading sides unable to compete seriously in Europe, there is no time for delay.
“Urban centres in Northern Ireland are soccer-orientated, but currently the local product is simply unable to compete. A switch to summer would enable teams to compete effectively in Europe, would bring back attendances who would otherwise attend games in Great Britain, and would enable people both to play at amateur level during the winter and spectate at semi-professional games in the summer.
“The Irish League cannot continue as it is currently. If teams such as Glentoran are to contemplate going full-time, as four League of Ireland clubs already have, then they need a competitive league and a structure which promises some international success. The winter game cannot achieve this, but a summer league managed properly most certainly would.”