Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Celtic: Irish FA grant Sport & Leisure Swifts request to change club name

Sport & Leisure Swifts Manager Pat McAllister
Sport & Leisure Swifts Manager Pat McAllister

Sport and Leisure Swifts' application to change the club's name to Belfast Celtic has been approved.

The Premier Intermediate League side had announced its intention to change its name to Belfast Celtic Football Club, having taken the decision at the club's AGM.

The decision proved contentious, with the Belfast City Society and existing club Belfast Celtic Young Men both expressing concern.

The Irish FA confirmed in a statement released on Friday morning that the name change, having been granted, will come into effect ahead of the 19/20 season.

"The board of the Irish Football Association determined at its December meeting that it will approve an application by Sport and Leisure Swifts FC to change its name to Belfast Celtic if a request is submitted by the club ahead of affiliation for the 2019/20 season," read the statement.

"Over recent months, the association has consulted with the club, NIFL, the County Antrim FA and the Belfast Celtic Society. The views of all stakeholders were presented to the board."

The Belfast Celtic Society have stressed that there are no links between the new venture and the original Belfast Celtic team, which was dissolved in 1949 having won 14 Irish League titles and eight Irish Cups.

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In a subsequent statement, S&L claimed early discussions with the Society had been 'very positive' and stressed their disappointment that their own optimism over the move was not shared by the group, which was set up to 'protect and preserve' the history of the original Belfast Celtic.

"Our club have not entered this process with opportunism and exploitation in mind, rather we see it as a chance to encourage the growth of Senior Football in the west of the city and to develop talent and encourage a better view of our area from people who reside outside of West Belfast," said Sport and Leisure Swifts.

Belfast Celtic YM, whose senior men's team won last year's South Antrim League Premier Division, went on to claim the development could harm their own dream of reaching the top tier of Irish League football.

"It feels likes a kick in the teeth, to be honest," BCYM co-founder Ryan Whelan told the Belfast Telegraph.

"Our plan is to be up there in Irish League football within 20 years and, while it is not their aim to get us to change our name, we're concerned that Sport and Leisure's proposal could hurt us."

Sport & Leisure had hoped to rubber-stamp the name change last summer but the Irish FA decision had been place on hold.

The Swifts are currently third bottom of the Irish League's third tier, having picked up only nine points from their opening nine league games. Dollingstown prop up the division with just four points. Finishing bottom of the Premier Intermediate League is likely to lead to relegation out of the NI Football League.

S&L last week announced the signing of former Ballymena United and Glentoran midfielder Stephen McAlorum.

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