Players' contracts will be honoured as reserves take a hit: Cliftonville chairman Gerard Lawlor

Gerard Lawlor is hoping there will be some football played by the summer

CLIFTONVILLE chief Gerard Lawlor has allayed the fears of the club’s players by insisting their wages will be paid as normal as the spread of Covid-19 starts to bite hard in northern society.

The Reds chairman revealed the north Belfast club will delve into its reserves and that there was no immediate worries for their playing staff.

“Obviously the players’ contracts need to be honoured,” said Lawlor.

“I’ve seen some clubs have laid players off and they’re maybe in a different situation to ourselves.

“We’ve a responsibility to our players. Footballers depend on wages in the same way as everybody else. We have support staff too and they must be supported as well.

“While we have changed the financial face of the club over the last few years, thankfully the club has built up some reserves. But now we’re going to eat into that. There are no immediate short-term difficulties for the club but this will probably have a long-term impact on us in terms of some money we had for redevelopment that will be knocked back now.

“We talked about putting down a new pitch in the summer but some of that money will be used for survival now.

“I’m glad the players will be still paid their contracts,” Lawlor added.

“Maybe Cliftonville would have been in a different situation five or six years ago and that we wouldn’t have the money to pay players, but we’ve some reserves which is good.”

Uefa is hoping to see all domestic leagues - sorely affected by the coronavirus outbreak - completed by end of June, Lawlor acknowledged that there is no certainty of when a resumption will happen.

“I’ve been strong on this: we have to finish the season. At this moment Uefa has set some deadlines for leagues to be completed. I think they are quite flexible. If we don’t get finished, other countries won’t get finishing their leagues either. We have flexibility over the future. We have the 2019/20 season to finish, we have European places to sort out, so we have to close that off.

“We have at least eight games – hopefully nine games if we reach an Irish Cup final – to finish things off. That could probably be done in a five-week period. There are no arguments then over European slots and promotion and relegation.

“Then the 2021 season is where we’d make the adaptions and by that stage we’d be working off informed decisions. Everyone could agree how many games we’d play in that season and what format we’d use.

“So I think it would be the following season that would be impacted as opposed to this current season. That is as long as we’re back playing football in June or July but none of us know that.

“If we’re sitting around at that time with no football then we’d have to look at it again.”

The IFA board is meeting tonight with clubs expected to be notified of any changes to the extension to the current season.

A hive of activity most nights and weekends, Solitude is lying empty since the social club closed its doors last week.

“Bar having a building on the Cliftonville Road, the club is finished. The social club is closed, there is no training, no contact, no groups, nothing. We’ve shut the place up and it’s basically mothballs at the minute.

“It’s now just wait and see. I suppose days like these there are more important things than football.

“We’re not able to play football but there are people who have lost their jobs and I’m trying to think of ways we can help. But I don’t think we can at this stage other than to social distance and stay at home. We want to play our part but one of ways of doing that is probably keeping your door closed and stop social interaction.

“We should have been playing Warrenpoint at this stage and I probably would have somebody bending my ear and giving off to me, and thinking: ‘Why am I doing this?’ And then you think: ‘I’d do anything to listen to that now.’

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe from just £1 to get full access