Irish Cup final set to be played in front of 500 fans

Fans are set to attend a football match in the UK for the first time since March when Ballymena United and Glentoran meet in the final of the Irish Cup on Friday.

The final of Northern Ireland’s domestic cup competition is scheduled to take place at Windsor Park and up to 500 supporters are set to be allowed in the ground, which has a capacity of 18,000.

It comes after the Northern Ireland Executive announced last week that some spectators could attend outdoor sports fixtures or events, as long as social distancing is in place, numbers are controlled and the appropriate hygiene measures are in place.

The Irish FA said on Friday that plans were being finalised to allow around 500 spectators to attend the final. The semi-finals took place without fans yesterday (Monday) and Ballymena and Glentoran have now detailed plans for the allocation of their share of the tickets.

Ballymena drew a ballot among season ticket holders, match-day staff and volunteers to determine who can attend and released a list of those who were picked.

Glentoran has provided tickets to players’ families, club vice-presidents, club life members, life season ticket holders and club volunteers. The rest of the club’s 250 tickets will be placed in a raffle that will include all season ticket holders, with the results to be announced tomorrow. Glentoran will provide the tickets free of charge.

Patrick Nelson, chief executive of the Irish FA, said: “Safety is paramount. We will work to ensure all guidelines are followed and liaise closely with the clubs involved to ensure tickets are distributed responsibly and that those inside the stadium adhere to social distancing at all times.

“We will continue to work with clubs and leagues to interpret what the NI Executive guidelines mean for the game at all levels.”

Yesterday’s semi-finals were the first competitive matches in Northern Ireland since football was suspended due to COVID-19 back in March.

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