WHILE agreeing with the decision to end the rugby season with immediate effect Omagh Accies coach Phil Marshall believes that decisive action and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will seriously impact clubs into next season and beyond.
Last week the IRFU called time on the 2019-20 season due to the escalating Covid-19 threat. On the field that decision had no major implications for any of the four Tyrone clubs, Omagh, Dungannon, Clogher Valley or Strabane although the Omagh Ladies team will miss out of a first ever final appearance at Kingspan Stadium next month.
The Acciettes were due to meet City of Derry in the Junior Cup Final at Ulster Rugby HQ but will now have to settle for sharing the silverware with their north west neighbours.
Omagh coach Marshall, while disappointed the domestic season had been cut short, insisted the governing body had little other option.
“It was the right thing to do, there is no doubt about that,” he said.
“Of course it’s disappointing because all the time and effort that has been invested in it. You have your own goals, aspirations and objectives but that has all been put into perspective by everything that is going on in the world.
“I have no problem with the decision that was made, it was the correct decision. You can’t have people travelling all over Ireland wily nily, especially in a contact sport like ours, it would be ridiculous.”
Having said all that Marshall believes the decision to end the season prematurely and the escalating threat of coronavirus will have huge financial implications for the Accies, as it will have for all sporting clubs.
The Accies coach estimates that Omagh will have lost approximately £20, 000 this season and is concerned what the future might hold in terms of sponsorship given that the business community is set to take a significant hit over the coming months.
The Accies committee held an emergency meeting on Monday night to discuss a whole range of issues including security, finance and sponsorship.
“The biggest issue will be money,” continued Marshall.
“How do you keep a club viable? We’re not too bad, the committee has done a great job. We have managed our finances with a lot of prudence.
“But we are going to have to cut our cloth accordingly in the not too distant future. We were about to embark on a fairly major internal refurbishment of the members’ bar, toilets, new bar area, new furniture, a project which would have cost around £200, 000.
“Now we are going to have to consider will we postpone that. Not that that would be the end of the world if we had to put it off a year or two years.
“We had a club tour organised to go to America in August. We had been planning and saving for the guts of two years for it. Without saying it’s off I would say the prospects of it happening are extremely remote.
“The big question is, how do you run your amateur sports club now when you have less money coming in?
“For us there is nothing coming over the bar, there are no pre-match lunches, then there is the whole issue of sponsorship. If your business is going down the tube you are hardly going to be running to your local club to hand over money.
“We have done well with sponsorship in recent times but the reality is that in six months time some of those business might not exist. You will have a hard core who will still throw you a few pounds but outside that? Challenging times lie ahead, there is no doubt about that.”