Belfast Telegraph

Fifty clubs set to drop into junior ranks as IFA propose Intermediate football overhaul

Crumlin Star won last season's Intermediate Cup but now many of their fellow Amateur League clubs could be set to drop down to junior status.
Crumlin Star won last season's Intermediate Cup but now many of their fellow Amateur League clubs could be set to drop down to junior status.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

The Irish FA are currently seeking feedback on their proposal for an overhaul of the current intermediate football structures within Northern Ireland.

The new plan will almost half the total number of intermediate clubs to just 68, spelling an immediate future in junior football for as many as 50 current intermediate teams.

It is hoped that the structure will be in place for the start of the 2021/22 season.

Which clubs make the top 68 will, in part at least, be decided by facilities, as was the case in the recent restructure of NI's top three divisions.

Included in the proposal are new specifications, including the standard of playing surface, changing rooms and spectator accommodation, but a €500k grant scheme will run throughout 2020 to help any clubs who wish to improve their grounds.

Currently there are approximately 117 intermediate teams across NI, with the top 12 playing in the NI Football League's third tier; the Premier Intermediate League.

Below that, teams are split between four separate league structures; the Mid Ulster Footbll League, the Northern Amateur Football League, the NI Intermediate League and the Ballymena and Provincial Football League.

However, the Irish FA has noted that there is a heavy concentration of clubs around the Greater Belfast area and in the east of the province.

Therefore, the proposal is to geographically divide clubs into three separate regions.

The aim is to have a Greater Belfast / East region consisting of two 14-team divisions, a North / North West region with a single 14-team division and a South / South East region also containing one 14-team division.

That will bring the total number of intermediate clubs down from around 117 to just 68, including the 12 PIL teams.

The IFA aims to introduce a tender process to decide who will operate each of the three regions, while NIFL are expected to continue running the Premier Intermediate League. The Amateur League is likely to apply for the Greater Belfast / East region.

A Leagues Panel will be set up to decide on promotion / relegation to and from Junior football as well as any lateral moves between the regions for clubs who sit near the region borders.

Included in the new facility specifications are the requirement for a 2m high perimeter, designed to prohibit viewing from outside the ground itself. Clubs must also provide permanent covered accommodation for a minimum of 50 spectators.

The proposal is part of the Irish FA's five-year plan, stretching from 2017 to 2022, and the aims are to improve playing standards and spectator experience while standardising the format of intermediate football.

The new plans can be viewed in full here, with the details of the facility requirements here.

The Irish FA's feedback questionnaire can be found here and must be completed by Friday, July 12.

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