Outrage as NI football team set to play first Sunday fixture

Northern Ireland’s national football team will be forced to play an international match at home on a Sunday for the first time, in a Euro 2016 qualifier next year.

The news has received widespread criticism, including from one former international footballer who is urging the Irish Football Association (IFA) to challenge the decision.

Previously UEFA, the organisers of Euro 2016, has allowed countries to decide their own fixture schedules, but it has now changed its system to an electronic selection, which includes Sunday fixtures.


Northern Ireland was drawn to face Finland at Windsor Park, Belfast, on Sunday 29th March 2015.

“I think they [the IFA] should be fighting it”, said Stuart Elliott, who played 39 times for Northern Ireland.

“We have always had a strong tradition in Northern Ireland as a great evangelical country”, he said, “so I would not be a supporter of playing football on a Sunday here, or having the fixtures on a Sunday.


“I think they [the IFA] should say, listen, we are a strong Christian country here, and we certainly should be having a look at it.”

A protest outside the stadium is being organised by Rev David McIlveen, a retired church minister.

He warned that having the match on a Sunday “is actually discriminating against people who are involved in football but who through religious convictions will not take part on a Sunday, and we commend them for that”.


In 2007 the IFA lifted a ban on Sunday football in the Province, which had been in place for 60 years, but a majority of clubs in Northern Ireland still opt out of playing on a Sunday.

In 2010 plans to switch Belfast City Marathon to a Sunday were stopped after churchgoers objected to the move.

Some said they would not be able to participate because of their views on the Sabbath, whilst others were concerned that a Sunday marathon would disrupt the thousands trying to get to church that day.


In 2011 a Scottish rugby player who missed a crucial World Cup match on a Sunday because of his Christian faith said he hoped matches would be scheduled on other days in the future.

Euan Murray, who was described as the best in his position by his coach at the time, said: “I don’t see why there have to be games on Sundays”, and commented: “I hope things will change in future.”

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