Legendary coach David Jeffrey has passionately called on the government to increase financial support to support the development of Irish League football.
The boss of Ballymena United attended the Danske Bank Premier League season opener in Belfast city center on Wednesday evening and expressed regret that the game has not received the support and recognition it deserves.
Jeffrey led Linfield to 31 trophies in his illustrious managerial career before joining the Sky Blues, where he also won the League Cup.
He has no time for those who want to criticize the League, but he believes that it suffers from a lack of political assistance.
“I remember how Irish League football went on during the darkest days in this country and I don’t think it was ever acknowledged by the government or our NI leadership,” said Geoffrey, whose time at the helm of Linfield lasted 17 years. years and three months.
“We can go a lot further with facilities, but wealthy benefactors like Kenny Bruce in Larne or Ali Poor in Glentoran are not so numerous, so we really need central government funding, and if you look at what a club is, like H&W Welders did with their home stadium, if it could be replicated on a larger scale in the Irish league we would be in a much healthier place.
“But every club strives to be better and there is a huge amount of talent in the League.
“There is a strong bond between clubs and communities that are growing.
“We will continue to develop as long as we live within our means. Some clubs have more money than others, but I don’t think we should bemoan this fact.
“We need to continue on the path we are on, and I think the flexibility in the schedule of matches and the emergence of full-fledged football is great.
“There will always be people who want to go to England or Scotland to watch football and you can’t get through to them. I don’t have time for naysayers who have never been interested in our game anyway. What we are seeing is an increase in attendance and an increase in the number of families and young people coming to the games.
“The standard is also off the charts, and our game is real – it means something to the players and fans. More young players are moving into professional games across the ocean, Kofi Ballmer hopefully will be next and this in turn could benefit the national team so supporting the Irish Football Association is also important.
“Look how Conor McMenamin gets called up for the national team. He thrived in the Irish League and the bottom line is that this league is better than people think.
“And there are still a lot of young people who are able to make moves because the level of play and coaching are improving.”
Football League Northern Ireland CEO Gerard Lawlor echoed these sentiments.
“I agree that the lack of investment stops the development of the game,” he said. “The Irish Football Association, with whom we work closely, shares our disappointment at the lack of stadium funding as we want more families to come to the games.
“We want more young people and women to enjoy our matchdays and that will happen as we improve conditions. This is a huge challenge. Hopefully one day football will get much more than the promised £36m.
“Hopefully one of our teams will soon advance to the group stage of European football which will take our game to the next level, so we need to keep up with each other and also not leave the clubs behind.
“It is important that all clubs can develop together and that is not always easy. There is good camaraderie between the clubs and we need to continue to work together.”