Opinion: Outside events could hit club hard in long run

The economic downturn in the Ballymena area could have a knock-on effect on the club's level of support in the longer term. Picture: Press Eye.
The economic downturn in the Ballymena area could have a knock-on effect on the club's level of support in the longer term. Picture: Press Eye.

It wasn’t the traditional topic of conversation on a matchday at the Showgrounds on Saturday but the subject matter was unavoidable.

The usual chat about transfer gossip or trips down memory lane were shelved as Ballymena United fans, like the rest of the local community, reflected on the seismic events within the town during the week.

Given how the fortunes of Ballymena United would undoubtedly have been discussed on the factory floor at Michelin by a proportion of the workforce - several of whom I know personally - there was more than a touch of irony as the impending demise of one of the area’s economic lynchpins was the topic of debate in the grandstand of the Showgrounds.

As people in this area come to terms with the knock-on effect of the imminent closure - on the back of the likes of Patton’s and JTI - Ballymena United should consider how it, too, might be indirectly affected.

Whereas a person would have forked out a tenner to go to an Irish League game, or paid for a season ticket, that might well become as much a luxury item for some of the affected fans as a meal in a restaurant or a night out.

Further down the line, you could see the best part of a generation of today’s youngsters having to move away from Ballymena in order to secure future employment - taking with them a percentage of potential supporters.

Think on it like this - in a couple of years’ time, there will be around 2,000 less jobs in this area than now - if even one per cent of those people followed Ballymena United, that is potentially 20 less people attending matches.

Income has been a regular talking point for Ballymena in recent seasons and this is another example of how events in the wider community can impact upon the football club.

But that is for another time - the sympathy of everyone locally should first and foremost be with those affected by last week’s decision and I wish them well.

Stephen Alexander