HomeFootballSunday football just too much for part-time Ballymena, says Chris Selwood

Sunday football just too much for part-time Ballymena, says Chris Selwood

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Loughgall were the first top-flight club not to sign up for the plan and now the Sky Blues say they have no desire to play on that day of the week.

United chairman Chris Selwood held discussions with the club’s board and they concluded that Sunday was not their preferred option for matches.

NIFL held positive discussions with the clubs on the issue and chief executive Gerard Lawlor told the Belfast Telegraph this week that the overwhelming majority of sides were in favour of playing on a Sunday.

The historic move between NIFL and the vast majority of top-flight sides has led to NIFL deciding against putting the controversial issue of Sunday football to a vote at this year’s Irish FA AGM.

At the 2023 AGM, a NIFL motion to amend the rules regarding playing games on a Sunday was overwhelmingly rejected by 104 to 27 with a number of Premiership clubs voting against NIFL.

Had the proposal passed, it would have meant Sunday games could have taken place without the agreement of both clubs involved. For the sides that have signed up for Sunday action, there’s a commitment to play two games on that day of the week next season should NIFL request them to do so.

Sky Blues chief Selwood says his club cannot support Sunday football.

“We discussed it and our board voted against it so we are not in favour of Sunday football,” he said.

“We are respectful of everyone’s point of view and I would add that religion is not the only factor in this.

“Ballymena United are a part-time club and it’s the only day when we aren’t working. I understand it opens up other days for games and can bring in extra revenue but our guys are driving vans for Amazon and working in offices Monday to Friday and if they have to play on a Sunday then they may train on a Saturday, so they end up working seven days a week.

“People like spending time with their families at certain times of the week and it would be wrong to say the club’s decision is purely based on religious reasons.”

The Ballymena United v Crusaders 2023 Irish Cup Final took place on a Sunday, though that was to avoid a clash with the Coronation of King Charles III.

“We said we would bring the issue to the board, without giving a yes,” added Selwood. “I think a number of clubs said they would bring it to their board. That’s democracy if you like.

“We discussed it, took time to reflect and when we had a vote it was unanimous that the club don’t want Sunday football.

“I was at the BetMcLean Cup Final on a Sunday and of course we were in the Irish Cup Final on a Sunday so I can see the pros and cons to it.

“I watch football on the television on a Sunday so why not watch it live at the game, but not everyone thinks that way.

“We needed to discuss it as a club and this is our board’s view.”

United have signed Josh Carson following his departure from Coleraine and Jim Ervin’s side could also be looking to recruit another former Bannsiders ace in experienced midfielder Stephen Lowry.

Meanwhile, former Rangers defender and Dungannon Swifts captain Chris Hegarty has announced his retirement from football.

The 31-year-old was part of Ally McCoist’s Rangers team that won the Scottish Third Division in 2013. He played 31 times for the Ibrox side before returning home to join Linfield.

Hegarty enjoyed two stints at Dungannon Swifts either side of a four-year spell at Crusaders. At Stangmore Park he lifted the League Cup in 2018, while at Seaview he won the Irish Cup in 2022 and 2023.

In a statement, Dungannon Swifts said: “Our club captain, Chris Hegarty, has today announced his retirement from football. Chris, a Dungannon man born and bred, has played over 100 times for DSFC helping us lift the League Cup in 2018.”

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