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Exclusive Joe Rice Interview
Ex-Chairman: Joe Rice

Joseph RiceClub Chairman and benefactor, Joe arrived at the club in October 1996, with plans to make Newry Town the most successful team in the Irish League and to ultimately enter European Club Football. His first major input was luring Trevor Anderson from Linfield to become Director of Football at Newry Town.

Joe Rice InterviewThe Showground talks with Joe Rice - the well known Chairman with highly publicised dreams of European football-and puts the questions you want asked on the table.

Mr Rice - the club has brought in many new players at some cost however many have not lived up to expectation such as Andy Myler and Kevin McKeown - Would you like to comment ?

Joe and Robbie celebrate the InterToto winWell, at the end of the day we brought in players to do a job in the First Division. We got out of the First Division and players were brought in under contracts - these contracts had to be fulfilled. For our first year we're happy enough to be in the Premier Division. I think we have done reasonably well, we have achieved what we set out to do. We qualified for Europe - got into the Inter-Toto. It's probably time now to sit down and look at contracts to see who is going to go and who is going to stay. There will be a bit of a clean out now during the closed season.

Dundalk is your hometown Joe, why help Newry when Dundalk are suffering similar problems ?

Dundalk is my home town. I was born and reared in Dundalk. I left Dundalk when I was seventeen. I have been living in Newry from when I was seventeen and I'm now thirty four. That's the bottom line, I have no interest in Dundalk to be honest. I'm all for Newry and that's it.

What do you think of 'The Showground' website?

I have to get looking at it to be honest but I have the address here and I'll get looking at it. Any P.R. for the club - we're delighted.

Can you reveal any big developments to occur next season ?

Our main priority is putting a good team together. That's the main priority for this club. There is no point in us having the stands and a good ground and not having a good team and maybe ending up back in the First Division. Our main aim is to get a good team first of all, establish ourselves and then we can go on in the future to build or whatever.

Many website visitors have expressed dismay at not being allowed to bring tricolors (their home flag) to home matches and why the stewards and RUC confront them if they do, surely these people are bringing a political agenda to the Showgrounds as are the flag owners?

No, I disagree. As regards the flags, I'm Irish and I'm proud to be Irish. The people of the club that are Irish are proud to be Irish. The people of the club that are British are proud of it. At the end of it, we are catering for both sections of the community. What I don't want is Newry Town to be brought in as political...whatever. The club colours are blue and white. If you want to support this club then fly the blue and white flag. If you want to support the green, white and orange, go to an Irish game. That's the way I look at it.

'The Way Forward'- Surely the way forward is leaving the Irish League (IFA) and joining the League of Ireland (FAI)- It would mean higher attendance figures and less political and sectarian harassment of Newry people?

No. Financially, I don't think it would be a good thing, to be honest. It costs a lot of money to have a team playing midweek matches down in Cork or up in Derry or over in Galway or down in Waterford. This is a part-time game. Unless the game became a full-time league of the whole of Ireland it might be a different story. But financial backing of Irish league football is not there. The bottom line being that it is hard enough to cater for the North because of financial resources. We have part-time players getting off work and you've got to pay them, you've got to take them to Cork or Waterford and keep them over night. It's all expense at the end of the day.

Attendance at home matches has significantly dwindled through the season- many supporters have blamed this on the lack of atmosphere and restrictions on behaviour?

Yeah, well at the end of the day, what I found when I came to Newry was a club with a lot of old folk following them rather than young lads coming through. The first thing I wanted to do when I came to the club was to let young lads in for nothing. They weren't there anyway so the club wasn't losing anything. There has been a good response to that, you have a lot of young kids coming to The Showgrounds now. The supporting, as I said, goes back to the old sectarian thing again. I don't want them chanting at the police. I'd rather they sing songs - support the team. That's really the bottom line. Where you have young lads misbehaving and getting to the police it isn't good - the police are there to help us. If there are any problems in the ground it falls back on the club. There is not a lot I can say as regards the young lads and their disapproval. Your better for the sake of five or ten minutes after the match having them stay behind until we let the visiting team away - to stop any injury or any violence or whatever.

Some fans have expressed concerns about being held against their will after contentious matches - Is this legal ?

The problem about it is when they are asked to stay behind it is to let the visiting supporters away so there would be no problems. Any problems that happen inside the grounds - this club's responsible for it. You have seen Glentoran and Linfield in the past getting hefty fines from the IFA. We try to avoid all that. We're responsible for inside the ground and the police are responsible for outside the grounds. That's the bottom line, we try to work with the police to get the visiting supporters away and at the end of the day it's only five or ten minutes after the match so it's no difference.

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  Copyright 1999 Jonny McCullagh
  DISCLAIMER: The views expressed on this page are those of the originator and in no way represent the views or opinions of Newry Town Football Club 1997 Ltd.