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Derry City: UK football club staying in Europe after Brexit

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Derry’s UEFA Cup run of 2006 saw them take on French giants PSG. Post Brexit every away game will see them travel to Europe

In the world of sport, Brexit, backstops and borders may not be foremost in the thoughts of fans.

That sport and politics should not mix is after all, an oft repeated phrase.

But for Derry City Football Club, this year celebrating 90 year since its first competitive match, Brexit puts the club in a unique position.

When Britain exits the EU, the Candystripes become the only UK-based club competing in a league within the European Union.

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Derry’s home ground lies 4 miles from the Irish border

The Northern Irish city of Derry straddles the Irish border. After Brexit, it will straddle the EU-UK frontier.

The football club’s Brandywell home ground lies less than 4 miles from County Donegal in the Republic.

And for more than 30 years they have played in the Republic of Ireland’s league. How Brexit plays out may add to their cross border dynamic.

Brexit Planning

Derry City have declined to comment on how Brexit might impinge on the club.

The Irish government, though, is planning for how cross-border sports could be impacted by Britain’s EU withdrawal.

“Sport Ireland is the main statutory organisation that liaises with Ireland’s national governing bodies of sport, including those 46 bodies that operate on an all-island basis,” said a spokesman for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

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Derry City returned from 13 years of footballing exile in 1985, playing in the Republic’s League of Ireland ever since.

“Both the Department and Sport Ireland acknowledge that the uncertainty of Brexit may pose challenges to all-island national governing bodies and remain available to assist such organisations should this be required.”

Derry have over the last 30 years gained a wealth of cross-border experience. And they have a history shaped previously by events off the pitch.

In 1972 – a year regarded as one of the worst of the Troubles in Northern Ireland – a supporters’ bus from visiting Ballymena United was burned on a visit to Brandywell.

The club were expelled from the Irish League in Northern Ireland and forced into the footballing wilderness.

Their exile ended with acceptance into the Republic’s League of Ireland in 1985.

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After Brexit, the Derry-Donegal border will be part of the UK-EU land divide

The Government may be planning for all possibilities but fans are thinking only about football.

Mickey Kerrigan, chairman of the Pride of Northside supporters club, has been travelling home and away to matches since 1985.

Brexit is not a factor for fans eagerly anticipating a new season, he said.

Politics, he said, “should never interfere with football”.

“People can make all the predictions they want about Brexit, but the truth is that no one knows what will happen.

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Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile via Getty Images

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Fans are not factoring Brexit into their new season planning, says a supporter’s club chairman

“Derry City fans have already been through the years of a hard border, we’ve had traffic tailbacks, delays and checks on the border and we shrugged our shoulders and got on with it.”

“I can’t see what change there will be for supporters, maybe some traffic issues if anything, but we have a new manager, new signings and are ready to get on the road for the new season,” he said.

Derry City begin the 2019 League of Ireland campaign at home to UCD on 15 February.

On 29 March – the date on which the UK is set to exit the European Union – the Candystripes host Sligo Rovers at their Brandywell home ground.

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