NIFL confirms loss of European spot
The Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) has finally officially confirmed that there will only be three places in European competitions next season for Irish League clubs, though the organisation is confident that number will return to four for the following campaign.
Anyone with an interest in local football has known for some time that the Irish League would lose a place in Europe after poor performances in the past from the clubs.
On the back of communication from Uefa, NIFL released a statement yesterday declaring that the title winners would enter the Champions League, with the runners-up and Irish Cup winners going into the Europa League.
No end-of-season European play-offs will take place this time around due to the loss of the additional place.
The statement read: "Following communication from Uefa of the latest Access List for European Competitions, the NI Football League has been advised that places allocated to Northern Ireland representatives has been reduced for the 2020-2021 season.
"Northern Ireland is currently ranked in 52nd position (from 55 member nations) as of the end of the 2018-2019 season. As a result, next season clubs representing Northern Ireland in Uefa Competitions will be limited to three places - one for the Uefa Champions League and two for the Uefa Europa League.
"The three European places will be allocated to the Danske Bank Premiership winners (Uefa Champions League), the Irish Cup winners (Uefa Europa League) and the Premiership runners-up (Uefa Europa League). There will be no Europa League play-off series at the end of this current season."
The statement continued that thanks to the efforts of clubs in Europe this season, where Linfield reached the Europa League play-off round and Crusaders, Ballymena and Cliftonville all won one tie in the competition, the Northern Ireland co-efficient ranking was expected to rise to 48th position by the end of the current season which should see a return to an allocation of four European places.
While it is widely expected this is what will take place, official confirmation will not come from Uefa until around this time next year.