Belfast Telegraph

Explained: The UEFA rule that caused Irish FA to reschedule Irish Cup ties for Monday evening

By Gareth Hanna

The Irish FA's decision to reschedule sixth round ties for tonight has caused its fair share of anger.

That was best summed up by Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton on Saturday, when he branded the addition to the fixture list 'absolutely ridiculous'.

He was speaking after playing 90 minutes as his side beat Ards 2-0 in the Danske Bank Premiership on an afternoon when all eight of tonight's competing clubs were in league action.

They'll be back on the pitch tonight, just 51 hours after concluding Saturday's fixtures - the quick turnaround the reason for such anger.

The Irish FA explained that the decision to stage the four cup matches this evening was taken with UEFA in mind.

The Irish FA, along with other UEFA Member Associations, was in September sent a document listing the dates of UEFA's 'international match calendar' - Champions League and Europa League fixtures - by UEFA General Secretary Theodore Theodoridis.

Included in the document is the statement that 'domestic competition matches may not be played on the same dates as UEFA competition matches unless exceptional circumstances so require.' UEFA goes on to say that scheduling such clashes is 'not in the interests of fans and is therefore harmful to football'.

There is an agreement between European football's ruling body and the Association of European Professional Football Leagues (of which the NI Football League is not a member) called the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, UEFA said that the MoU is their basis for working to avoid clashes of 'domestic matches' on UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League matchdays.

As outlined in Article 1(d) of the agreement, UEFA and the EPFL are both committed to "cooperating and negotiating" on fixture lists and the "interaction between domestic and UEFA club competitions." This appears to be the line that relates to domestic cup ties, as the Irish FA is, of course, a member of UEFA.

Both NI Football League Cup semi-finals were played on a Champions League night on December 11 although, as previously stated, NIFL is not a member of the EPFL. The County Antrim Shield semi-final between Crusaders and Larne was also played on a Champions League night on November 27.

The other articles in the MoU relating to domestic fixtures and UEFA competitions are Articles 3.8 and 3.9, both of which reference 'top division' matches as opposed to cup ties.

Article 3.8 of the MoU states the requirement that "EPFL Member Leagues abstain from scheduling top division matches on dates which are reserved for UEFA club competition matches" - barring certain exceptions.

Article 3.9 permits that 'top division matches which had to be postponed due to...reasons beyond the reasonable control of the concerned EPFL Member League may be rescheduled on dates reserved for UEFA club competition matches, upon agreement with UEFA, when it appears that no real alternative exists.'

The list of exceptional criteria includes, as per A3.9, a lack of alternative dates to prevent a player having to play two matches within 72 hours due to the scheduling of a competition.

The Irish Cup quarter-final matches are scheduled to be played on March 1 and 2.

Available dates between the original postponements and the last eight matches (not clashing with UEFA competitions) would have included last Tuesday and Wednesday, when Gary Hamilton said the matches should have been played. Glenavon's opponents Dungannon, however, played Coleraine in the Danske Bank Premiership on Tuesday, February 5.

The next available midweek dates (Tuesday-Thursday) not to clash with UEFA competition would be the week before the Irish Cup quarter-final weekend.

As per the Irish Cup rules, it falls to the Challenge Cup Committee to decide the dates for rescheduled matches.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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