Another Own Goal By The IFA

The exclusion of Donegal Celtic from the IFA’s new Invitational League has provided the icing on the cake for what has been a bit of an annus horribilis for the football authorities in the north in regards to their relationship with northern nationalists. Having first picked a fight with the nationalist community over the eligibility of Irish citizens to represent the Rep Ireland at international football level, the decision to dump the Irish Cup semi-finalists and team finishing 11th placed overall in the league in favour of First Division outfit, Bangor, has dismayed supporters of the club and rekindled not too distant memories of the lengthy battle fought by the club (and Lurgan Celtic) to secure membership of the League- which was only achieved in 2002 following a decision by the Equality Commission to support a court case against the IFA on grounds of discrimination. So should Donegal Celtic attempt to emulate Derry City and take to the Eircom League?Unfortunately for the Wee Hoops, it would appear that that particular ship has sailed. The growing professionalism of the Eircom League has led to a widening gulf emerging between the calibre of football on offer at local level between the two leagues in Ireland- with only Linfield appearing able to match the growing professionalism of the Eircom League. The launch of the new weekly programme, MNS, as well as regular live television coverage of matches, is further evidence of the positive strides being taken by the Football Association of Ireland to develop the game at local level. Indeed, were Donegal Celtic to even make enquiries about entry into the FAI structures, they may find themselves several tiers below the Premier Division, given the competition from developing clubs across the state.

Unfortunately, north of the border it appears that the IFA continues to rearrange the deck chairs, expanding to a 16 team league then contracting to a 12 team league in the space of a few years. The obvious problem remains the quality of the product on offer by the Irish Football Association. In an era in which SKY tv/ Setanta bring top quality Premiership/ SPL matches to our living rooms, and numerous airlines take hundreds on the small leap across the Sea to view the top teams at low costs in day return trips which allow for fans to eat their fry at home and return comfortably in time to visit the pub or kick the feet up for Saturday television, Irish soccer will continue to struggle.

And in that context, it becomes even more glaringly obvious that the IFA have made a blunder in excluding a team with the potential to bring a whole new audience to local football from their new Invitational League. Worse still, they have merely confirmed the negative perception of the footballing body within the northern nationalist community, a perception built on the harsh experiences of the small number of predominantly-nationalist supported soccer teams who participated in the northern league- and survived to tell the story.

The experiences of Belfast Celtic, Cliftonville, Derry City and Donegal Celtic within the northern footballing setup do not make happy reading. Belfast Celtic exited the league not long after a shocking sectarian attack onb its players at Windsor Park; Derry City’s experience eventually led to withdrawal from the league and, more happily, finding a place in the more progressive looking Football Association of Ireland setup; for years, Cliftonville were forced to hand Linfield the distinct advantage of having two home games versus the north Belfast Reds; even this season, with the club experiencing its best form since winning the title a decade ago, sectarianism reared its ugly head as the Manager was on the receiving end of a death threat days ahead of a Cup fixture with Linfield.

And then there’s the experience of Donegal Celtic. For years the club were denied access to the league, securing membership only weeks ahead of the commencement of a court case taken with the support of the Equality Commission against the football authorities.
Yet here was a club willing to go in for the long haul, taking the knocks and sticking at it in an effort to reach the highest tier of local football in the north. Having done precisely that, and having just finished their best ever season in local soccer, reaching the final four of the Gibson Cup competition and exceeding all expectations and finishing 11th in the league, it is only natural that the club, its players, official and supporters are somewhat stunned by yesterday’s developments.

But have no doubt: the biggest losers in this affair are the Irish Football Association.

  • Cheer up, Chris. At least Rangers got bate.

  • Doctor Who

    Chris there is already a thread on this topic. Just how many simultaneous MOPE´s do you want on offer.

    The word Portadown was notably absent from your mope fest.

  • Dermot

    Chris

    I agree that the DC only gained league status after the IFA were forced into their change by legal action proving the sectarian decision making within the IFA in 2002 (post Lennon).

    But the ‘Wee Hoops’ chairman has always been a strong supporter of the association that discriminated against his own team for many years.

    He spoke in an interview last year about an invitation from the Eircom league a number of years ago to join the set up within the 26 counties, and his rebuttal to the approach, claiming that his team played in ‘northern Ireland’and why should they play anywhere else.

    Not sure if Raymond Bonnar will now try to look elsewhere for a senior position within a league for his team, but its clear he would be happy to join the Welsh or Scottish leagues,as much as the Eircom league.

    The most bizarre statement of the day was Bonnar’s claim that the decision was a “body blow for the community in west Belfast”.

    That’s rubbish, the team could only muster 200 supporters for the irish cup semi final against Coleraine and are lucky to get a few hundred through the gates at home games.

    West Belfast does not need the DC because they had the chance to be Belfast’s ‘Derry City’ years ago, but instead they chose to accept the the beer slops from the IFA.

  • No, Chris is right, the IFA should have dropped another team from the League to let DC in because of their community background. Sure they can change the criteria and let DC in instead of Bangor because Bangor has too many Prods*.

    That’ll work just fine.

    Or maybe the IFA would leave themselves open to another court-case.

    * I have no idea what the religious makeup of Bangor’s playing or other staff are.

    PS – How many DC matches did you make it to this year Chris?

  • Chris Donnelly

    Dermot
    I agree that DC probably have come to rue their reluctance to look beyond the local structures.

    DWHO
    Portadown’s unfortunate predicament is one due to administrative incompetence on their own behalf. Of course the league would be much better with one of its top teams still in it!

    Beano
    I’m not surprised with your attitude, to be honest. The fact that you can’t seem to appreciate the value to your cause of DC playing within the northern structures and encouraging fans/ players to embrace those same structures merely confirms my opinion as to the inability of some visitors to this site to see past the end of their noses….

    oh, and I’m not a DC fan; true armchair C’ville fan, making only one game this year though keeping abreast of their progress throughout the year (not that I see how that should make a difference either way…)

  • Chris I’ve pointed out (a couple of times I think) on the other thread that I do appreciate the significance of a nationalist team from west Belfast playing in the Irish League. I wish they hadn’t been excluded but this jumping up and down and screaming discrimination and mopery (other thread) about “powers that be” that “don’t want a catholic about the place” and that “the IFA are pursuing a sectarian and political agenda” is blatant horseshit.

    Unless you too believe that this criteria (published at least a year ago and by which teams were apparently scored by a third-party) was somehow drawn up with the express intention of excluding DC based on the religious affiliation of their fans/members/players.

    Do you think they should have fiddled and/or ignored the figures to let DC in because of the religious affiliation of their fans/members/players?

    And I’m glad to hear you at least made it to one match, it’s better than nothing. I think it is relevant whether or not people discussing this issue are at least fans of local football and preferably would like to see it doing well or are out solely to score political points.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    As I said on the other thread, the term “MOPE” seems to have evolved into a term of sectarian abuse.

    The sectarianism of those using the term here is obvious enough.

  • “The sectarianism of those using the term here is obvious enough.”… to those who will see it whether it’s there or not, maybe.

  • Dermot

    ‘Dermot, I agree that DC probably have come to rue their reluctance to look beyond the local structures. ‘

    Chris

    DC’s failure to gain adtmittance to the latest version of the IFA league is because of the present chairman’s inability to accept that the community of West Belfast have little interest in participating in a league, that is of little or no interest to them.

    The IFA have failed to garner any support within Nationalist communities for their ‘international Team’,they have failed to get any support despite the continued media drive to portray the ‘no surrender singing’ ‘god Save The Queen’ singing support of Windsor Park as being anything less than a unionist fest, on ‘international’ nights.

    Mr Bonnar bought into this from any stage, despite the fact that 99% of the commmunity chose tosupport Irleand , rather than Bonnar’s 6 county team.

    Let’s face it, the only Ireland supporters clubs in the West of the city go to Croke Park for their international football, and unlike the DC,they are happy to ignore teams that have no relevance to them, on a alocal level.

  • Derry City Fan

    It seems that a team from Belfast would do very well in the Eircom League. It’s a real pity that B Celtic decided to waste their time with that bunch.

  • DM

    Billy Pilgrim, for someone who can usually be bothered to string an argument together, your constant berating of beano for his supposed ´sectarianism´ is tiresome and devoid of imagination or substance.

  • agh

    surely with the freedom of info act we can get access to the exact point scoring and determine why exactly DC got kicked out?
    They did have a cracking season this year but previously they’ve been turn. In addition, they have no fans and a poor set-up. Ground safety, youth teams and womans teams probably came into the mix as well.
    The Ports are the team that have the real gripe here. Beurocracy gone mad.

  • DM

    Agh, DC have indicated that they will appeal to the IFA to discover the breakdown of points and how they were awarded (by an independent organisation), and if they are still unhappy they will subsequently appeal through the courts.

  • darth rumsfeld

    so the IFA is a bigotted anti-catholic organisation because it didn’t take DC? And of course the oppressed nationalist people of..er Larne, Limavady and Portadown of course.
    Some people just can’t accept that they’ve no divine right to something, and respond in the only way they know- cry sectarianism.

    I’ve spent a large part of the year with people working on applications to the Invitational league. The whole procedure has been scientific, thorough, and scrupulously fair. Clubs were given advance notice of their probable position in summer 2007 and at Christmas. IFA staff did enormous wrok helping clubs. Some clubs still managed to screw up, thereby making DC’s chances even better. They still failed, and by some distance to overhaul Institute and Bangor.

    I’m sorry for genuine football fans, but it’s not the end of the world. The facts are that the ground is poor, the infrastructure only average- and in spite of the claims to the contrary- the locals haven’t backed the team. I recall stories when they went up about being as big as Linfield. They’re not even as big as Linfield Swifts

    On another matter, very sad news to hear about the death of Tommy Burns- a gentleman and exceptionally talented footballer. Terrible to be taken at 51

  • Aye. Sure let DC play on a fucking cabbage patch because they come from a nationalist part of Belfast! Biggest MOPE ever!

  • Realist

    “On another matter, very sad news to hear about the death of Tommy Burns- a gentleman and exceptionally talented footballer. Terrible to be taken at 51”

    Indeed darth…I was unaware that Tommy Burns was seriously ill until I heard this terrible news this morning.

    A man dedicated to the club he loved, and a credit to that club.

    May he rest in peace.

  • RepublicanStones

    surely if DC were playin on a cabbage patch they could have a fruit and veg stall outside, thus earning more money and easily affording the upkeep of the ground. A crib is any less of a crib because idiots label it a ‘MOPE’, few people will be havin a mope after last night methinks. Anyway its Sam season, Tir Eoghain abú !

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    Well said Darth and Realist.

    I’ll admit to shedding more than a few tears this morning. Tommy Burns, a beautiful man, funny, full of unstated irony finally lost his battle with cancer. A man who always had time for us as kids playing football in the east end, visiting his old mentor who coached us at St. mary’s boys club. Visiting us in our school many times to hand out our winners medals. Thank you for giving me some of the best times as a Celtic fan, the style of football under your management has yet to be surpassed, I’m sure you would have been manager again. I can say wholeheartedly that you were loved as a man and a player. Condolences to his wife Rosemary and his children

    No more twists, no more turns, it’s just Tommy Burns.

  • willowfield

    Very sorry to hear about Tommy Burns.

    Perhaps this thread should be closed as discussion of the DC/Portadown exclusion continues on the other thread?

  • Tommytwobottles

    It seems that a team from Belfast would do very well in the Eircom League. It’s a real pity that B Celtic decided to waste their time with that bunch.

    Posted by Derry City Fan on May 15, 2008 @ 05:14 AM
    Are Derry City applying to the southern tax payers to transform their race track into a football stadium or do they expect the North to pick up the tab. Northerners shouldn’t waste time on that bunch.
    Good luck to DC on their appeal, take your begging bowl south candy stripes.

  • iluvni

    “I recall stories when they went up about being as big as Linfield. They’re not even as big as Linfield Swifts ”

    lol!

  • darth rumsfeld

    Without wanting to be controversial, Tommy Burns was a genuinely devout man, a credit to his faith, gracious in defeat ( though to be fair , as Tic manager he had a lot of practice)always willing to help charity events.

    As a footballer, I can’t believe he only got 8 Scottish caps. He was so stylish on the ball, and I wish he’d been in the light blue alongside Davie Cooper in the early eighties when we had to thole the likes of Davie McKinnon or Gregor Stevens clugging arond the park. I had thought he would be a good choice for Scotland manager, but I suppose it was his illness which ruled him out

    A hundred times the man of the latterday T shirt wearing or imaginary flute playing numpties who pandered to the lowest common denominator of their clubs’ supporters while probably never darkening the door of a church.

  • pete shirlow

    I have been going to Linfield matches since 1969 so have been aware of the decline that has been taking place within the Irish league for a long time.

    The standard isn’t great but why people no longer go in the numbers they once did is sad to see. Obviously there are many more things to do nowadays on a Saturday and the population decline around the traditional grounds has had an effect.

    But the increasing refusal of so many to connect to local clubs and to spend their time flying over to Scotland and Premier league grounds is probably a major reason for the overall decline.

    These factors are important but the IFA has a lot to answer for. It just appears as a constantly inept organisation.

    I fear it is too late to save local football with the present structure and governing body. The big guns will end up in a cross-border league and the local clubs will fade into obscurity.

    That is pretty sad. Just think of those great nights in Europe that were not so long ago.

    It’s basically doomed and that is that.

  • George

    Are Derry City applying to the southern tax payers to transform their race track into a football stadium or do they expect the North to pick up the tab.

    I believe they are. Looking for 5 million from the Irish taxpayers apparently.

    By the way, as people in Derry are northern taxpayers, they are looking for another 5 from the North.

  • darth rumsfeld

    Pete, I wouldn’t disagree. I remember the Blues playing the likes of Larne and Distillery in the mid to late 80s and there was enough away support to fill the Railway stand. Now there’s perhaps 50 -100 away fans for most clubs
    Portadown and Glenavon used to bring big crowds too.

    I recently went to Finn Harps v UCD, and was amazed at a crowd of over 2000 for a nothing match- the standard was also much better than IL, so it can be turned around

  • tommytwobottles

    Are Derry City applying to the southern tax payers to transform their race track into a football stadium or do they expect the North to pick up the tab.

    I believe they are. Looking for 5 million from the Irish taxpayers apparently.

    By the way, as people in Derry are northern taxpayers, they are looking for another 5 from the North.

    Derry tax payers! there aren’t enough workers in the Bogside to run a sweet shop they are all living off the Londonderry taxpayers, piss off down south and take their benefits paid for by Europe as the south has no industry worth talking about.

  • tommytwo – I think you should change your handle to tommyfourbottles as you’re clearly pished if you think that there’s no industry “worth talking about” down Mexico way.

    A couple of years of US recession and reckless southern cost inflation and that could all change, mind…

  • Slugger Fan

    Come on rise to the bait.

    Are Northern taxpayers not Irish as well? (Unless they are a different nationality)

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    >>Tommy Burns was a genuinely devout man, a credit to his faith, gracious in defeat ( though to be fair , as Tic manager he had a lot of practice)always willing to help charity events.< >I had thought he would be a good choice for Scotland manager, but I suppose it was his illness which ruled him out< >A hundred times the man of the latterday T shirt wearing or imaginary flute playing numpties who pandered to the lowest common denominator of their clubs’ supporters while probably never darkening the door of a church.<

  • WindsorRocker

    I too am a Linfield fan and when DC gained promotion to the IL a couple of years ago, we followed the saga through that summer. The media covered that they were getting ground improvements done and Messrs Bonnar and co regaled us with tales of thousands coming to see the green and white hoops play senior football. To be honest, I actually was hopeful that they would make a real contribution to the league.

    It didn’t work out like that. People in West Belfast didn’t turn out to support the team, the ground consists of 2 small bike sheds with seats in them, one large bike shed that passes for home covered terracing and an away side with no cover and three layers of low terracing blocked by a great big fence which leads to away fans taking their chances on the grassy bank to actually see the game.

    The criteria for this new league were agreed a long time ago, all clubs knew what was involved. Community impact was not one of them and if DC want to make that argument then they should have piped up when the criteria were being drafted. Methinks they thought they were a cert because of the “community factors” and that the IFA would be scared to apply the criteria equally to all clubs. They then got a shock when other clubs had worked to the applied criteria and overtaken them.

    And yes, I now believe they are playing the “green card” and it is sad. There are undertones flowing through of allegations of discrimination whilst the examples of Portadown, Larne, Limavady and Armagh are conveniently forgotten. All of these clubs have missed out but there seems to be no clamour for them by the misinformed commentators and bloggers.

    People should also remember that a progressive club from nationalist North Belfast in the form of Cliftonville have been involved in major ground work over the last couple of years. If they hadn’t done that work they too would have missed out due to lack of facilities. Clubs like Institute and Bangor have invested amounts of money in getting their facilities in a better state. None of these clubs got any funding that DC wouldn’t have been entitled to. They all suffered equally due to the holding back of government funds as a result of delayed IFA administrative changes.

  • Realist

    An excellent post WindsorRocker.