| 16.5°C Belfast

Irish League clubs need Uefa and Irish FA to solve crisis by extending season

Close

@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 6th August  2016
Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye

Uhlsport official ball for Linfield and Ballinamallard United  during Saturday's Danske Bank Premiership match at Ferney Park, Ballinamallard      
Picture by Brian Little/Press Eye

@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 6th August 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Uhlsport official ball for Linfield and Ballinamallard United during Saturday's Danske Bank Premiership match at Ferney Park, Ballinamallard Picture by Brian Little/Press Eye

@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 6th August 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Uhlsport official ball for Linfield and Ballinamallard United during Saturday's Danske Bank Premiership match at Ferney Park, Ballinamallard Picture by Brian Little/Press Eye

Danske Bank Premiership clubs are sweating on Uefa and the Irish FA granting approval for the league season to be extended into August.

The 12 top flight sides have expressed a desire to play the seven remaining rounds of league fixtures when it is safe in front of fans but their hopes could be crushed by the football authorities.

Last month the Irish FA granted the Northern Ireland Football League an extension up to July 31 but now the Premiership sides want more time to conclude their campaign on the pitch.

A season which was suspended back in March due to the Covid-19 crisis is still to be wrapped up and it remains unclear whether Uefa will extend its August 3 deadline date to end domestic competitions when it meets on Wednesday.

Europe’s governing body may not show any flexibility towards the Irish League.

NIFL, which held a board meeting yesterday, was expected to inform Uefa of its plans for finishing the season but no decisions will be taken before Wednesday’s meeting.

In their statement issued last night, NIFL said: “The NI Football League are aware that the UEFA ExCo are meeting on Wednesday 17 June and would anticipate that meeting will fully inform the process and dates of all UEFA club competitions following this meeting.

“This will enable the NIFL Board to make decisions based on fact rather than speculation. The NIFL Board have written to the IFA to enable them to send an update to UEFA ahead of this meeting.”

Reaching a consensus agreement with all 12 clubs has proved challenging, with different views on the distribution of European money and how clubs should be nominated for Europe.

Linfield and Coleraine have been opposed to the distribution of European money but it’s understood the other 10 clubs are arguing it’s the only fair way out of this mess.

In a normal season, the winners of the Premiership go into the Champions League, with the runners-up and the Irish Cup winners awarded positions in the Europa League.

Clubs have argued that in an unfinished season, the Uefa money would reduce some of the financial damage caused by this pandemic.

The clubs would need to reach an agreement on the distribution of European funds and then have it sanctioned by Uefa.

NIFL added: “The representatives of the Premiership clubs met yesterday (Thursday) and have advised they wish to continue to consult collectively on a way forward. The NIFL Board are agreeable to giving clubs further space to formulate their plans ahead of a Premiership Management Committee once information from UEFA is available.

“This time will allow for further dialogue with the Irish FA and NI Executive on a return to football and consequently we have agreed to defer today's proposed deadline for final Premiership club response until a later date.

“In addition, submissions have now been received from all Championship and Premier Intermediate League clubs and will now be considered by the NIFL Board.”

In Thursday’s meeting between the Premiership clubs, the NIFL Steering Group’s proposals on how to end the current season were kicked into touch, forcing the vote to be scrapped.

Those options were to finish the season on the pitch by playing two more rounds of fixtures, meaning teams would have played each other three times, or for an independent panel to choose a mathematical formula that would determine final league standings.

Instead, the clubs agreed they wanted to finish the season on the pitch, provided they have the backing of the Irish FA and Uefa.

If the 38-match programme is not allowed to be completed later in the year then what options are left? The season may just have to be abandoned with an independent body appointed to make decisions based on sporting integrity.

The Irish FA has said that it hopes to complete the Irish Cup, which is at the semi-final stage, but it may need all of its persuasive powers as clubs have no interest in playing games in empty stadiums.

Cliftonville stated yesterday: “Cliftonville FC would like to clarify comments made by some media. At last night’s meeting of Premiership clubs, no support was given by us for any proposal. We continue to consider all options put forward by the NIFL and others in regards how to conclude this season.”

Most clubs were clearly underwhelmed with the recommendation to go for the two-game proposal, citing health, financial and players’ fitness concerns.

It’s also recognised by all parties that the NI Executive must give the green light for the game to return with spectators allowed in stadiums.

Glentoran, meanwhile, have introduced a Covid-19 temperature testing station at the Oval.

The East Belfast club installed a CovidGuard machine in the players’ entrance which checks the temperatures of players and staff arriving at the ground.

Fra McCaffrey and Colm Deasy have agreed new deals with Warrenpoint Town.

Town boss Barry Gray, fresh from signing his new contract, said: “I’m delighted to advise our supporters that in the past week, agreement has been reached with two of our current players, club captain Fra McCaffrey & Colm Deasy, enabling them to sign two year contract extensions.

“Both players were very keen to extend their stay at the club and I know everyone will be as pleased as I am, that these players have shown their ongoing commitment to the club.

“Both players are great professionals with a desire to drive standards higher and progress the team to new heights.

“I fully expect both players to be a pivotal part of our plans going forward.

“I look forward to providing further squad updates over the coming weeks and months.”

Belfast Telegraph