David Jeffrey believes the Irish League has a significant role to play in defeating coronavirus as a ban on supporters attending matches is about to kick in.

anske Bank Premiership games will go behind closed doors from Friday for at least two weeks after the NI Executive opted for tougher restrictions.

It’s a fresh financial blow for clubs who have only been able to secure limited matchday revenue from smaller crowds during strict Covid-19 measures.

The Northern Ireland sports sector was allocated £15m to deal with the impact of the pandemic, but Irish League clubs hoping to net £3.5m of the payout may not receive the funding until March or April at the earliest.

Ballymena United boss Jeffrey understands the fans’ frustration, but he feels the game must make the necessary adjustments to defeat a virus which has already claimed so many lives.

“Given the changing landscape, there are times when the Irish League should be seen to be doing something,” argued Jeffrey, who won 31 trophies as Linfield boss.

“The clubs have been first class in the Covid measures they have put in place and certainly Ballymena United have followed all the protocols superbly, with social distancing for supporters.

“We have done what we needed to do to keep people safe and we have done it in abundance.

“Fans have been back which is first class, albeit home fans only, but I do think there’s a time not just to do the right thing, but to be seen to do the right thing.

“I’m not saying it was wrong that we had fans in. The preparations for the games are meticulous and we reassess everything.

“It’s not simply a gesture. Given what is going on, maybe it’s the right thing to stand shoulder to shoulder with everyone at this very difficult time. The massive blessing for us is that the BBC have been streaming games.”

The Premiership is allowed to continue as it is classed as an elite sport, but Championship clubs yet to start their season are frustrated they have haven’t been given that status by the Irish FA.

“At the elite level we are thankful to be able to play. I’ve been talking to Harry McConkey at Ballinamallard United and you can understand their frustration at not being able to do one thing,” added Jeffrey.

Belfast Telegraph

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