Wheels of change are now moving
The long awaited overhaul of intermediate football in the country, begins next Monday.
IFA Intermediate Committee members will gather in the Seagoe Hotel, to begin the inspection of more than 130 grounds between now and next spring.
All teams currently playing at this level, will be inspected as will junior clubs aiming to step up for the new beginning in August 2008.
This is likely to see some dramatic changes, particularly in the Amateur League whereby clubs who have enjoyed intermediate status, will drop down to junior level if grounds do not meet the minimum new requirements.
That is likely to bring a new outlook to the league's Premier Section with possibly current clubs losing out and those in Divisions 1A and 1B, automatically stepping up.
Those clubs which fail the initial inspections, will be given time to meet the criteria and seek a second inspection prior to the start of the 2008-09 season.
The biggest change rules out roped-off grounds while the referee's room must be at least three square metres including the showering area. The room must be for his or her purpose only - in other words, no broom cupboards!
Dressing rooms must have at least four shower heads.
The actual playing surface must be fenced to a height of 0.8 to 1.1 metre by a wall, fence or single or more bar rail and must be no less than 2.5 metres from the touchline.
A ground will require an outer permanent fixed fence, wall or natural boundary to prevent access except through a recognised entrance.
The biggest problem will be for clubs using park pitches as each will have to be properly segregated with recognisable entrances.
Access to the pitch from dressing rooms, which must be within the perimeter of the ground, will have to be fenced to a height of one metre, although that does not have to be permanent fencing. In other words, mobile barriers can be used to give protection to players and officials on match days.
This is all part of the process for change at both senior and intermediate level.
Seniors will need to acquire a local club licence to make it into the new 12-team Premier League while intermediate and juniors, aiming for the Premier Intermediate League, will undergo further scrutiny before the end of next March.
For clarity purposes, there are no restrictions in numbers to the PIL and there is no guarantee that those seniors dropping down will get a place, while junior clubs are also eligible to apply.
The bottom line is that all clubs must meet the criteria laid down which means having to get on with the required work, as quickly as possible.
All interested parties will be able to apply for grant aid from the IFA following the forthcoming EGM which should see the release of the remainder of the £8m government funding to the governing body.
Recently, there has been concern raised in Lisburn Borough Council who claim the IFA grant scheme is flawed in that it is allegedly only open to Premier and current intermediate clubs thereby being unfair to other progressive clubs.
They also criticise the IFA for "not consulting" with them in a bid to help clubs in their own area.
However, there is no excuse for any club in the country not knowing what is going on and if Lisburn Council want to get on board in helping progressive clubs, then they will not find the IFA lacking in providing them with the right guidance on procedure.