The Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) have made an historic move by playing this season’s BetMcLean League Cup final between Cliftonville and Coleraine on a Sunday.
As revealed by the Belfast Telegraph on Wednesday, NIFL have confirmed March 13 next year for the eagerly awaited decider.
It is believed the governing body are planning to offer reduced ticket prices to attract as many supporters as possible, including neutrals and families, to the Windsor Park showdown.
New NIFL chief executive Gerard Lawlor has made a positive impression in his first few months in the job and this ground-breaking vision is a bold bid to transform the League Cup final into one of the biggest sporting events in Northern Ireland.
No final in domestic football in this country has ever taken place on a Sunday, while it wasn’t until 2008 that the first Irish League game was played on the Sabbath when Glentoran defeated Bangor 1-0 at The Oval.
The previous year an amendment was made to Irish FA rules to allow Sunday games if both clubs agreed though Saturday matches have been the norm for weekend fixtures ever since.
At the Aviva Stadium in Dublin last month, 37,126 fans attended the FAI Cup final between St Patrick’s Athletic and Bohemians due to great value ticket prices and NIFL are hoping their attractive pricing structure would encourage an attendance of over 12,000 which, for a League Cup final screened live on TV, would be outstanding.
The welcome NIFL stance on tickets comes just a few months after fans slammed the IFA for their pricing policy to attend Northern Ireland home games.
“This announcement marks our ambitions to maximise the potential of our League Cup competition and make this game one of the showpiece events of the football calendar," commented Lawlor on the decision.
“I have set the challenge to our staff to make this the biggest final in NIFL’s history for the benefit of the competing clubs, our sponsor and most importantly the fans.
“I am aware this is the first time a major domestic final will be played on a Sunday in Northern Ireland, but we have to continually evolve as a league and look to what has worked for other major sporting events and learn from their successes.
“We will aim to provide affordable and attractive ticket pricing for the final that both rewards the loyalty of long serving supporters but opens the door for new fans and families to enjoy the superb product of live Irish League football."