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Linfield crowned champions as Irish League standings determined on points per game basis

 

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Linfield captain Jamie Mulgrew lifts the Gibson Cup after his side became Danske Bank Premiership Champions in 2019

Linfield captain Jamie Mulgrew lifts the Gibson Cup after his side became Danske Bank Premiership Champions in 2019

Linfield captain Jamie Mulgrew lifts the Gibson Cup after his side became Danske Bank Premiership Champions in 2019

Linfield have been crowned Irish League champions for a 54th time after the final standings were decided on a points per game basis.

The declaration means the Blues tie Glasgow Rangers' world record for most domestic league titles, while Coleraine are confirmed as runners-up and Crusaders in third, ready to pick up the final European place if the Bannsiders win the Irish Cup.

When football was brought to a halt, Linfield were four points above title rivals Coleraine, with north Belfast rivals Crusaders and Cliftonville locked on 59 points in third and fourth.

At the opposite end of the Premiership table, Institute's relegation has been confirmed, with Championship winners Portadown promoted back to the top tier after a three year wait.

Their near neighbours Annagh United can also finally celebrate a confirmed promotion after their Premier Intermediate League triumph, replacing relegated PSNI in the Championship.

There had, of course, been long and fractious discussions between the Premiership clubs, NI Football League and Irish FA representatives.

When agreement could not be reached, it was decided that the season would be brought to an immediate close with independent consultants to choose a mathematic formula to decide the final standings.

Football data consultancy 21st Club was the company chosen by NIFL's two independent board members to make a decision between points per game and weighted points per game, which takes into account the difference between home and away fixtures.

In the end, straight points per game was chosen as it was deemed to be 'objective' and has been applied to decide the final standings of the top divisions in France, Scotland and Wales. Weighted points per game has not been used in other European top divisions.

As a result of the calculations, there were no changes to the Premiership or Championship tables as they stood on the suspension of play, although in the third tier, Dollingstown moved above Bangor into third and Banbridge Town leapfrogged Armagh City into sixth.

"Whilst recognising that not all clubs will be happy with the final standings, the NIFL Board has sought to take all reasonable and proportionate steps to ensure the fairest and most appropriate outcome is reached which will allow all stakeholders to start planning for the resumption of football, when safe and appropriate to do so," read a NI Football League statement.

Institute, relegated after being three points behind Warrenpoint with what would have been seven games left to play in normal circumstances, have been one of the clubs to register their disappointment.

"From day one, I advocated that I didn't think any club should be punished unfairly, or lose out, because they were stopping the league," said manager Sean Connor.

"We investigated a 14-team league. That way you were rewarding the teams below the league who had fought to get promoted, and you weren't punishing the teams that were at the bottom."

The final standings were as follows:

Danske Bank Premiership

1. Linfield

2. Coleraine

3. Crusaders

4. Cliftonville

5. Glentoran

6. Larne

7. Glenavon

8. Carrick Rangers

9. Dungannon Swifts

10. Ballymena United

11. Warrenpoint Town

12. Institute

Bluefin Sport Championship

1. Portadown

2. Ballinamallard United

3. Loughgall

4. Ards

5. Newry City

6. Dundela

7. Ballyclare Comrades

8. H&W Welders

9. Queen's University

10. Dergview

11. Knockbreda

12. PSNI

Bluefin Sport Premier Intermediate League

1. Annagh United

2. Portstewart

3. Dollingstown

4. Bangor

5. Newington

6. Banbridge Town

7. Armagh City

8. Lisburn Distillery

9. Moyola Park

10. Limavady United

11. Tobermore United

Belfast Telegraph