Irish League clubs are working towards a solution to finally conclude the 2019-20 season which would see top two Premiership sides Linfield and Coleraine make a cash donation from Uefa money to the other 10 teams.
Following a week of explosive meetings involving the 12 top-flight clubs, public squabbles, claims and counter claims which have plunged the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) into crisis, the Belfast Telegraph understands that the Blues and Bannsiders are willing to hand over weighted sums of cash to the rest of those in the division should the pair be nominated for Champions League and Europa League places respectively.
It can also be revealed that the 10 clubs - Crusaders, Cliftonville, Glentoran, Larne, Glenavon, Dungannon Swifts, Carrick Rangers, Ballymena United, Warrenpoint Town and Institute - are agreeable to such a deal if they feel the offer is "significant" and "fair" to them.
The Linfield board held a meeting last night. It was expected the issue would be discussed.
There will be negotiations on the figures with clubs still in with a chance of qualifying for Europe likely to want more, but there is hope of a resolution this week.
There is also a willingness from the majority of clubs to play the remaining seven league games later this year when spectators are allowed into stadiums.
If agreement can finally be reached between ALL clubs, three months after football was halted in Northern Ireland due to the coronavirus, it is thought the Irish FA will back the plan.
The IFA need to nominate three clubs to Uefa for European competition by August 3. The latest proposal would see nominations from the Irish Premiership declared as the table stands now after 31 games, and Linfield four points clear of Coleraine.
The other nomination for the Europa League will come from the Irish Cup winners. If that is Glentoran, Cliftonville or Ballymena it is expected they will agree to share Uefa funds and if it is Coleraine, the spot will go to Crusaders, who are in third in the league. It is believed the Crues would also share money.
Last week, nine clubs rejected the two offers proposed by NIFL’s Steering Group, one of which was playing two more rounds of fixtures while the other would see an independent panel choose a mathematical formula to determine standings.
Then came a proposal to nominate European places after 22 league games had been played — which would have seen Cliftonville qualifying for the Champions League but not declared champions and Linfield and Glentoran in the Europa League.
Coleraine and Linfield flatly rejected that plan. Clubs are waiting to see what Uefa say tomorrow about European dates for next season.
These developments come on the back of another extraordinary day in the Irish League in which Larne owner Kenny Bruce called for Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry to consider his position on the NIFL board.
Bruce’s comments were in response to McKendry’s interview in yesterday’s Belfast Telegraph when the Coleraine man slammed events of last week and insisted he would not be bullied.
Bruce said: “How can a NIFL board member act like this after a fellow NIFL board member asked all clubs not to do so. NIFL has to take action. The board member should consider his position.”