'Every club feeling financial pinch' - Ballymena United chairman Taggart

Ballymena's most recent game was a 2-0 league derby defeat by Coleraine on 7 March
Ballymena's most recent game was a 2-0 league derby defeat by Coleraine on 7 March

Ballymena United chairman John Taggart has said that every club at every level of football in Northern Ireland is "feeling the financial pinch" as a result of their current circumstances.

The Irish FA has suspended all domestic and grassroots football until at least 30 April because of the coronavirus.

"The safety of everyone is of paramount importance," emphasised Taggart.

"We are fortunate that we got some money from our Europa League run which saw us progress through a round."

Ballymena finished second in last season's Irish Premiership and subsequently defeated NSI Runavik of the Faroe Islands 2-0 on aggregate to make it through a European tie for the first time.

The Sky Blues lost heavily to Swedish outfit Malmo in the first qualifying round but still picked up in the region of £400,000 as a reward for getting past the preliminary round stage.

"That is helping us meet our financial commitments in the current difficult scenario," he added.

The Irish FA has called on the NI Executive to provide more support to local clubs during the Covid-19 pandemic health crisis, while the Northern Ireland Football League has provided some guidelines on how clubs may be able to access funding.

"We were due to pay wages on 31 March and they were honoured in line with contracts but wages are due to be paid again on 30 April," explained the Ballymena chairman.

"There may be a possibility of furloughing players but there is a legal issue involved about which we need clarification from the IFA.

"We had a good idea of the type of income we might get from our remaining home games as part of our budgeting.

Lucrative cup semi-final in doubt

"But we also had a potentially lucrative Irish Cup semi-final against Coleraine - a half share of the gate from that game which looks as if it may now be lost.

"We don't know how this season will pan out, whether it will be finished, and although the cup semi-finals and final could still take place this calendar year places in European competition could be long gone by that stage.

"Pooling the European income and sharing it is an outcome that would probably be satisfactory to the majority of clubs. At the moment we don't know how long it will be before football is back and what the limitations may be when it returns."

David Jeffrey guided United to their best league finish for 40 years in 2019
David Jeffrey guided United to their best league finish for 40 years in 2019

Last week the Braidmen revealed that they had added a two-year extension to manager David Jeffrey's contract at the club and although the Ballymena chairman concedes that the club have had a disappointing season, lying in 10th place in the league, he insists the club are right to retain their faith in the former Linfield boss.

"We want to build on what we have achieved and looking at where we were four or five years ago David Jeffrey has been instrumental in that, in terms of our success and helping put the club on a firm financial footing for a time like this.

"Financially we can stand on our own two feet but we still believe we can grow the club further. That's what we want to do."