Danske Bank Premiership clubs remain determined to play out the league season, the Belfast Telegraph understands.
In tonight’s meeting which has been described by sources as being “particularly stormy and very acrimonious at times”, the clubs agreed to bin the two options for ending the season suggested by the Northern Ireland Football League’s Covid-19 steering group.
The recommendation of playing two rounds of games to finish the campaign or face a mathematical model to decide final positions was fiercely rejected by clubs, forcing today’s vote deadline to be scrapped.
The 12 top flight sides have accepted that a new agreement needs to be reached to ensure the campaign ends in the manner that best meets the requirements of sporting integrity, the health and wellbeing of all personnel and clubs’ finances.
And it’s understood that the overwhelming majority of clubs are not willing to let go of the season yet.
There's still hope that the seven remaining rounds of the Danske Bank Premiership games and any promotion and relegation play-off can still be played with fans in attendance in perhaps August or September.
Next season would then have to be knocked back and after a short break could commence later in the year.
Tonight’s meeting, chaired by Leslie Caul who stepped down as Chairman of the Executive Board of the Irish Football Association in 2015, lasted around two and a half hours but still leaves more questions than answers.
The suggestion of finishing the season on the 22-game mark when each club had played all others home and away was also floated.
That would see Cliftonville take top spot by a point, with Linfield second and Glentoran third.
The European money has been a major feature of the talks and it’s understood both Linfield and Coleraine strongly object to the sharing of the Uefa funds.
More talks are required between the clubs to reach a compromise agreement that can be supported by NIFL and the Irish FA.
The meeting was a clear indication clubs felt it was necessary to go back to the drawing board.
Irish FA and NIFL officials didn’t participate in tonight’s talks, giving clubs an opportunity to discuss a new way forward.
Up to nine clubs were expected to vote against the two-match option, which would see each club having played each other three times during the league campaign and the lack of agreement resulted in another attempt to thrash out a different pathway out of this mess.
It was thought NIFL was required to inform Uefa of its plans for finishing the season on Friday and club submissions were expected by 3pm but it’s now clear the talking isn’t over and may even run into next week.
One club official stated: “A decision has been deferred with clubs coming together to arrive at an arrangement suitable to all clubs and hopefully the IFA.”
The discussions over how to curtal the season were in danger of descending into further farce with the fear of legal action and ugly public fall-outs.
Crusaders were so angry at NIFL’s proposal that they penned a letter to the Minister of Health asking for government intervention and advice in the process.
Clubs dismissed the two league game recommendation as making little sense from a health and financial perspective and they were also angry at how little time they were given to issue a response.
The only clubs believed to support the two-game option were leaders Linfield, second-placed Coleraine and Cliftonville, who lie fourth.
The Irish FA said it would cover Covid-19 testing costs but clubs felt the proposal lacked detail and was a health risk.
And the second option, determining final positions by an independent panel on a mathematical model, left everyone wondering what the formula would be.
The distribution of around £1m of European money in light of the financial impact of the Covid-19 crisis is also a contentious issue with Linfield and Coleraine opposed to it but other clubs calling for it.
Uefa would need to agree to that, following representation from the Irish FA.
NIFL still has to nominate representatives for the Champions League and Europa League by August 3.
The NI Executive also want the Irish FA to keep them informed of developments with members of Stormont's Communities committee requesting written details from the association.
The Irish FA have indicated their desire to complete the Irish Cup which has reached the semi-final stage.
Speaking after Tuesday’s meeting with the clubs, Glentoran manager Mick McDermott said: “It was one option offered and how do you ask a volunteer organisation to assemble everyone and make the biggest decision in the history of their club in 45 hours. If you want to back someone into a corner with a decision you kill them with time. That’s how the clubs felt and the mathematical formula, which wasn’t explained, lacks sporting integrity.
“The two game proposal doesn’t respect the health and well being of the players or the financial needs of the clubs. I felt the clubs should put their heads together to come up with the best solution to ensure the game’s survival.”