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Charity Shield may be shelved due to Euro duels

 

By Steven Beacom

The traditional curtain raiser to the Irish League season, the Charity Shield, may not take place this year due to the European commitments of Crusaders and Coleraine.

The Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) have announced that the Irish Premiership campaign for 2018-19 will kick-off on Saturday, August 4, but talks are ongoing whether the Shield match can be staged on July 28, the week before, which has been the case for the past four years.

The issue has arisen because title winners Crusaders and Irish Cup holders Coleraine could be involved in European competition on July 26, allowing little time for them to recover for the Charity Shield scheduled to be played two days later.

The Crues are in the Champions League this season, while Coleraine - along with Glenavon and Cliftonville - will compete in the Europa League.

All four will discover their first qualifying round opponents in next week's draw.

Stephen Baxter's champions will play their initial Champions League games on July 10/11 and July 17/18. Should they progress to the second qualifying round, their fixture dates will be July 24/25 and July 31/August 1.

Under new Uefa rules, if the Crues lose their opening round tie they would enter the Europa League second qualifying round when the games are scheduled for July 26 and August 2.

Coleraine, as well as Glenavon and Cliftonville, will want to be involved in Europa League action then too as it would mean they would have come through their first qualifying round games on July 12 and July 19.

It is understood NIFL would like to play the Charity Shield game, but it may prove impossible.

The curtain raiser was brought back in 2014 after a 14-year gap and has proved a popular addition. Last year, Linfield defeated Coleraine 3-1 in the match.

The Danske Bank Premiership fixtures for the coming campaign will be released on June 29.

Meanwhile, NIFL intend to share information on their wide-ranging consultation about the future of domestic football dates and when the season should start and end at their AGM next month.

Data gained from various sources and stakeholders within the local game is currently being compiled. It will be presented to member clubs at the AGM prior to being made public.

Belfast Telegraph

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