A new version of the Ladbrokes.com Championship starts on Saturday and it will be watched with great interest this season both on and off the field.
With the demise of the IFA Interim League, all of its former members with the exception of Brantwood and Oxford United Stars, have made it into Championship 2 as the second tier will be known. Clubs had to upgrade their grounds to the same level as Championship 1 or gain suitable ground shares acceptable to the IFA Intermediate Committee.
The Brants were not interested in spending money and were quite happy to join the Ballymena Provincial Intermediate League.
As they have no ambition to become a senior club, they do not lose out in any way in terms of competitions as no matter what others might think, the Championship is still intermediate football and not a second tier of the senior game.
Oxford United failed to get the guarantee necessary from Derry City Council regarding sharing the Brandywell and have had to go to the Northern Intermediate League instead. The club lost their appeal against their Championship rejection.
How clubs fare with the financial costs will be interesting, especially as the second tier like the first, has also taken on board paying for a referee and two assistants. That will prove very costly not least for a club like Ballymena’s Wakehurst who will play all their home matches at Tobermore, and later at Moyola.
Paying for the rent of the pitches, officials and their travelling expenses in the light of few paying supporters, is going to make it an expensive 2009-10 season.
And as for those in Championship 1, few are likely to obtain a local licence necessary to put themselves in with a realistic chance of promotion to the Premier League.
Loughgall have already ruled out that prospect, leaving only Donegal Celtic and Bangor as realistic possibilities.
Bangor could not meet the criteria to stay in senior football last season and prospects of a quick return, even if they top the league, cannot be bright.
Ladbrokes.com Championship 1 clubs: Ards, Armagh City, Ballinamallard Utd, Ballyclare Comrades, Ballymoney Utd, Banbridge Town, Bangor, Carrick Rangers, Coagh Utd, Donegal Celtic, Glebe Rangers, Larne, Limavady Utd, Loughgall.
Championship 2 clubs: Annagh Utd, Chimney Corner, Dergview, Dundela, H & W Welders, Killymoon Rangers, Knockbreda, Lurgan Celtic, Moyola Park, Portstewart, PSNI, Queen’s Univ., Sport & Leisure, Tobermore Utd, Wakehurst.