Belfast Telegraph

'Rebirth' of Belfast Celtic put on hold by Irish FA

By Steven Beacom

A west Belfast football club's bid to switch its name to one of the most famous names in Irish FA history has gone into extra time.

Sport and Leisure Swifts will have to wait until next year to discover if they can change their name to Belfast Celtic following an IFA ruling last night.

Because of the reputation and heritage linked to the old Belfast Celtic name in Irish football, the request to take it over had caused major debate - which is now set to continue for at least another 12 months.

The IFA board declared that because the club had already affiliated to the County Antrim FA as Sport & Leisure Swifts on June 26, and then contacted the IFA about switching to Belfast Celtic on July 5, the association would consider their request for the 2019/2020 season, rather than this one.

In a statement, the IFA quoted Article 4.2 of the its Articles of Association, which states that "applications for any change of member's name ... must be approved by the board prior to affiliation to the Divisional Association".

It added: "As the club affiliated to the County Antrim FA on 26 June for the 2018/19 season, and first contacted the Association on 5 July regarding the name change, the board determined that the request will be given active consideration ahead of the affiliation deadline for the 2019/20 season."

It all means that the Bluefin Sport Premier Intermediate League team will remain as Sport and Leisure Swifts for the 2018/19 campaign.

If they wish to continue with their plan to change their name to Belfast Celtic, the earliest that could happen is for the start of next season - if the IFA grants their request.

Sport and Leisure had previously stated that they were aware of the sensitivities a name change could bring and hoped to involve everyone with an interest in the issue.

They also claimed it would bring investment into the club, adding that they felt it was the best way to bring senior football to west Belfast.

Managed by former Cliftonville and Coleraine great Packie McAllister, the club have ambitious plans to move forward.

Until it was dissolved in 1949, Belfast Celtic - known as the 'Grand Old Team' - had been one of the most successful sides in Ireland, winning 14 Irish League titles and eight Irish Cups.

Since the proposal by Sport and Leisure was announced, the Belfast Celtic Society, set up to protect and preserve the history of the original Belfast Celtic, have denied links to the project and outlined concerns regarding the move.

In yesterday's Belfast Telegraph, junior club Belfast Celtic Young Men revealed their fears that the proposed name change by Sport and Leisure could damage their prospects of bringing the famous Belfast Celtic name back to the top tier of Irish League football.

Belfast Telegraph

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