Uefa's Executive Committee meeting today is expected to confirm that European qualifiers will go ahead in August, and that development is likely to bring the curtain down on the domestic league season.
Danske Bank Premiership clubs had expressed a desire to play out the remaining seven league fixtures in August when it's hoped fans will be allowed back into stadiums but it appears Covid-19 and the clock has beaten them.
The Irish FA remain determined to finish the Irish Cup provided they are given the green light by the NI Executive, with the final possibly being staged on August 3 - the same date the Association need to nominate three Irish League clubs to Uefa to take part in European competition. But the league campaign looks doomed with Uefa expecting seasons to be completed by then and the Euro qualifiers proceeding in the middle of August.
Clubs can only sign players to play in Europe when the transfer window opens and that can only happen when the Irish FA declare the season officially over.
The winners of the Danske Bank Premiership - David Healy's Linfield expect to be nominated champions - were scheduled to enter a four-team mini-tournament against the champions of San Marino, Andorra and Kosovo with the winner progressing in the Champions League. The other three teams would then go into the second qualifying phase of the Europa League.
Linfield applied to host those games and they should be played at Windsor Park if it goes ahead.
Second-placed Coleraine, four points behind Linfield after 31 games, should net a Europa League spot along with the Irish Cup winners, with Derry City joining them in the qualifiers.
If Coleraine pip Glentoran, Cliftonville and Ballymena United to the Irish Cup, then Crusaders, who are currently in third place in the league, will expect to play in a Europa League qualifier.
The distribution of European money has been a contentious issue in the Irish League but talks are under way to share Uefa funds in a fair manner to clubs throughout the league.
Nine clubs rejected the two offers proposed by NIFL’s Steering Group, one of which was to finish the season on the pitch by playing two more rounds of fixtures while the other would see an independent panel choose a mathematical formula that would determine final league standings.
The NIFL board will meet following the Uefa conference to consider what options they have left, but it now appears hopes of playing out the league season are dashed with the Irish FA set to knock back any request for a further extension into August.
When the transfer window swings open, clubs will finally be able to refresh their squads for Europe and next season by signing players, with Coleraine goalkeeper Chris Johns expected to join Linfield.
Significant contraction of the European schedule may now be required, with some rounds being played as single ties.
Qualifying rounds could now be one-legged affairs, with the draw determining who gets home advantage.
It has been suggested that ties could take place in the week commencing August 17, with the draws pencilled in for August 9 and 10.
A strict regionalisation is possible, although Uefa do tend to apply geographical considerations to pots when they are finalising the draw procedure.
Sides drawn away and forced to travel for one-off fixtures should be entitled to financial assistance.
The positive news for the Irish League is that they have won back their fourth European place next season.
After falling to 52nd place from 55 nations in Uefa’s co-efficient rankings, the Irish League were only awarded three European places this year but the strong performances of our teams last summer have brought us back up to four Euro spots for the 2021-22 season.
Northern Ireland have now jumped to 48th in the rankings after Crusaders, Ballymena United and Cliftonville all progressed through a round of the Europa League and Linfield went on a stunning run, almost reaching the group stages of the tournament.
The lost place cost the league at least £195,000 in European prize money and forced the European play-offs to be scrapped but now NIFL are in a position to resurrect those play-offs next season. The end-of-season play-off semi-finals and final allow the team that finishes as low as seventh position in the league an opportunity to a clinch a Europa League spot.
Countries occupying places 51 to 55 in the Uefa co-efficient list will be given three European places.