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Irish League's next step to be discussed this week with further update due, says NIFL chief



Big questions: NIFL Managing Director Andy Johnson

Big questions: NIFL Managing Director Andy Johnson

Big questions: NIFL Managing Director Andy Johnson

Northern Ireland Football League Managing Director Andy Johnston insists there is much work going on behind the scenes to make progress on what happens next regarding the Irish League season.

Johnston added that NIFL are hopeful of providing an update later this week following consultation with a five man Steering Group set up to deliver recommendations on concluding the current campaign.

From the middle of March when Covid-19 halted football across Northern Ireland, supporters, players and managers of Premiership and Championship clubs have been left wondering if the 2019/2020 season will end on the pitch and, if so, what safety measures will be in place when football resumes.

There is also debate about decisions to be made relating to titles, European places, promotion and relegation should the season finish prematurely.

In recent weeks, Johnston has been extremely active exploring different scenarios on how Irish League football can move forward in this unprecedented situation. He has also been in constant dialogue with clubs to discover their viewpoints.

"There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes," said Johnston.

"In the last couple of days, we have been working closely with the Steering Group about how we progress the current situation and will continue to do that.

"We are looking to make progress and do that efficiently with a view to providing an update later in the week."

Asked about the split opinions amongst clubs on whether to call the season off or try to resume it, Johnston said: "Everybody will have their position for a reason. I do understand that."

At present, Uefa need to know by next Monday if an extension is required for the Irish League this season, though there is a possibility the deadline may be extended at a meeting of the European Leagues today.

In the Premiership, there are seven rounds of games to go, with Linfield four points clear of Coleraine in the title race. At the bottom, Institute are three points behind Warrenpoint Town. In the Championship Portadown are top, six points ahead of Ballinamallard United, who have a game in hand, with Loughgall two points further adrift.

The quintet on the Steering Group tasked with providing recommendations to the NIFL Board are Brian Adams (Ards chairman and NIFL Board chairman), Gerard Lawlor (Cliftonville chairman and NIFL Board vice-chairman), Jack Grundie (Linfield director and NIFL Premiership Committee chairman), Trevor McCann (Ballyclare Comrades chairman) and Jonathan Madill (Independent NIFL Board member).

Meanwhile, Uefa's latest Executive Committee meeting, which was set to take place on May 27, has now been delayed until June 17. It is understood the Euro 2020 play-off matches, including Northern Ireland's semi-final trip to Bosnia & Herzegovina scheduled for October, will be discussed.

Belfast Telegraph