NIFL vote on table to change rule over Sunday football in Irish League

​Chief executive Gerard Lawlor has delivered a firm defence of the NI Football League bid to cement Sunday football on the domestic calendar.
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Hundreds of votes will be cast at Monday's Irish FA AGM in Armagh on a NIFL proposal critics have described as "Draconian" and a "seismic shift" for Irish League football.

In a move Lawlor calls "an important key to progress", NIFL have put forward a motion to amend the current regulation that "no match shall be played within Northern Ireland on a Sunday, unless the two participating clubs and competition organisers agree to do so" to now include "this regulation shall not apply to matches played under the auspices of the Northern Ireland Football League".

Opponents to the change from clubs across the top three tiers of NIFL men's football have told The News Letter concerns include the traditional barrier to Sunday football of religious beliefs but also fears the strict wording of the proposal would result in league officials forcing clubs to play across men, women and Academy fixtures and that power to dictate an agenda sets a dangerous precedent.

Northern Ireland Football League chief executive Gerard LawlorNorthern Ireland Football League chief executive Gerard Lawlor
Northern Ireland Football League chief executive Gerard Lawlor

However, Lawlor insists NIFL remains fully committed to dialogue with clubs on all matters, that the proposal is in response to conversations with Irish League sides and that three previous opportunities to discuss the change have been met with "minimal objection".

"My job and the role of the NIFL Board is to improve our league and we consider Sunday football an important key to progress," said Lawlor. "Our records show an increase in Sunday attendances of between 15 and 22 per cent, so it is logical from a business viewpoint to explore.

"Sunday football is basically played in every other part of the world and we simply cannot continue with the traditional 3pm Saturday kick-off time and expect to develop.

"We must also take into account European football and the prospect of our clubs getting ever-closer to reaching the group stages of those competitions, with Sunday fixtures crucial under those circumstances.

"We respect all sensitivities but we will never know the full extent of any full feeling until it is on the table for a vote...ultimately, the power is always with our member clubs.”

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