Sporting figures say 'God Save The Queen' should be dropped at Northern Ireland matches
A former Northern Ireland manger has called for the singing of 'God Save The Queen' to be dropped at international matches.
Michael O'Neill said it affected the team and left them "disadvantaged" when they did not sing the pre-match anthem together.
In the UTV documentary, 'Game of Two Halves', broadcast tonight, Mr O'Neill said he believed the Irish Football Association should consider dropping the national anthem.
A manager of the team for nine years, he said: "I felt we were at a disadvantage in the anthem, because I could see how other countries would either sing their anthem or display, real patriotism, you know, a real togetherness, real emotion during the anthem.
"And we never really got that."
He said he urged players from nationalist backgrounds not to bow their heads during the anthem and it is an issue the IFA needs to look at.
“I just felt we needed something that potentially, we could use as our identity the same way, as you know, if you ask someone from Wales or Scotland, where they're from, they'll tell you they're Scottish, or Welsh, they won't say they're British," he said.
The programme also featured NI women's captain and Cliftonville midfielder Marissa Callaghan, who spoke of her experience as a Catholic player.
"You know it’s quite sad," she said.
"Northern Ireland don’t really have their own identity.
"As a Catholic player, unfortunately I don’t get that experience of standing tall and singing the anthem as loud as you can.
"But it doesn’t take away the pride and the passion and what it means to put on the green shirt. It will take someone to think outside the box won’t it?
"And be brave enough to move it forward."
Former Ulster and Ireland rugby player Rory Best also told the programme that 'God Save The Queen' was "not very inclusive" and he believed the singing of 'Ireland’s Call' was a unifying anthem at rugby matches.
Coleraine-born actor and avid NI football fan James Nesbitt also said: "I’m not knocking anyone with the idea of having the national anthem, of course, it's important that we can sing it loud and sing it proud".
"But it’s when it creates dissonance it’s difficult."
IFA chief executive Patrick Nelson said: "Northern Ireland is a complex place and the anthem is an issue which stirs a lot of emotions in people; some of it’s positive in wanting to keep it, and for some people they’d like to change it.
"We will join any official public debate if it ever happens."