NIFL suggest end of season in sight at last for Irish League clubs
Irish League officials, managers, players and fans will be hoping June 23 can finally provide answers on an end to the Danske Bank Premiership season following another day of discussion.
Hopes were high the NIFL Board meeting on Monday would offer a solution but instead confirmation arrived before 10pm of another waiting game until Tuesday morning for “a full statement”.
It is understood one issue close to confirmation on Monday - although still unofficial - was promotion for Portadown and Annagh United out of, respectively, the Bluefin Sport-sponsored Championship and Premier Intermediate League.
That would also feature automatic relegation for Institute from the Premiership and the Championship’s PSNI - as the sides bottom of the two divisions following the March football fixture freeze. However, sources suggested both Institute and PSNI had yet to receive any confirmation of status.
If, as expected, NIFL opt to introduce a mathematical model to settle the Premiership standings it would confirm Linfield and Coleraine as the top two sides in the league, plus two of the three European qualifying names from Northern Ireland.
However, with Crusaders third at the end of the March programme on goal difference alone over Cliftonville, the opportunity for that final European spot - based on Coleraine winning the Irish Cup - could be affected by different algorithms implemented.
Any official ruling by the NIFL Board will go to the Irish FA for a green light before the August 3 deadline set by UEFA for the domestic game’s three European qualifying names.
It is understood the Irish Cup semi-final and final ties can still take place over late July and early August - with Cliftonville, Glentoran, Ballymena United and Coleraine in contention for the season’s closing trophy. Windsor Park is considered an option to host all three games ahead of August 3.
Given the weeks of meetings between NIFL, the Irish FA and clubs towards an agreement, any final decision announced on Tuesday is expected to spark further debate but the majority of fans will feel a sense of relief at a long-awaited conclusion to the season.
Although relations between certain parties may stand strained as a result of a process to find a solution to the season which has featured heated disagreement in both private and public, many within the game will relish the opportunity to now switch focus to the 2020/21 campaign.
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.
In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper whenever you are able to do so.
Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world.
But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.
With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper when you can safely.
You can also enjoy unlimited access to the best news from across Northern Ireland and the UK by subscribing to newsletter.co.uk
With a digital subscription, you can read more than five articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.