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Irish League season to be declared over in order to open transfer window before European qualifiers



Irish FA President David Martin

Irish FA President David Martin

IFA president David Martin

IFA president David Martin

Irish FA President David Martin

Danske Bank Premiership clubs will meet again today for further talks but hopes of playing out the 2019-20 league season in front of fans are over.

Uefa confirmed yesterday that Champions League and Europa League qualifiers will go ahead in August, killing off the possibility of the Irish FA extending the season here. IFA chiefs still hope to finish the Irish Cup and three clubs must be nominated to play in Europe by August 3.

Clubs will discuss the latest developments in a Premiership Management Committee meeting tonight but they have no appetite to play matches behind closed doors, so the campaign looks over.

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

Premiership sides wanted to play the final seven rounds of league fixtures when fans are allowed back into stadiums but that is now impossible.

The Champions League's four-team preliminary round, featuring the Irish League's top European nominee, will be played as semi-finals and a final on August 8 and 11. A venue has yet to be confirmed but Linfield have applied for it to be at Windsor Park.

Our two Europa League representatives' first games are on August 20. All matches are one-leg shoot-outs.

Irish FA president David Martin said: "The transfer window needs to open for the clubs playing in Europe so they can register players and the season will need to be finished for that to happen.

"The Challenge Cup Committee is still committed to finishing the Irish Cup and the games will be played at the National Stadium."

Martin added: “At this moment, there is no possibility of supporters attending games but the BBC are one of our stakeholders and we have a commitment to them.

“The final was to be on August 3 but if the league fixtures don’t happen it could be played the week before. The Committee will discuss that.

“The season had been extended to July 31 but the transfer window needs open for the clubs playing in Europe.”

Linfield topped the Premiership table when the league was suspended in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, with Coleraine four points back in second place.

The Blues are expected to be nominated for the Champions League, with Coleraine taking a Europa League place.

The Irish Cup winners will secure a Europa League spot and if the Bannsiders lift the trophy, third placed league side Crusaders will expect to grasp the Euro reward.

The Cup has reached the semi-final stage with Coleraine facing Ballymena United and Glentoran up against Cliftonville.

Discussions will continue over the sharing of European money, ensuring any distribution throughout the league is fair and reasonable.

While the Premiership clubs and NIFL will hold further talks, Uefa’s decision to proceed with the Euro qualifiers leaves our league on the brink of a conclusion, with Linfield chairman Roy McGivern saying: “The news from Uefa means that decisions will need to be made quickly.”

Meanwhile, organisers of the STATSports SuperCupNI are developing a template for UK and Irish based teams only should travel restrictions still be in place for the 2021 tournament.

An Under-14 section will also be added to next year’s event.

Belfast Telegraph