Danske Bank Premiership clubs are edging closer to an agreement on the sharing of European money at the end of a league season which has not been able to finish but will see Linfield now named champions.
Clubs will continue discussions following a positive meeting last night but it’s understood they have accepted the seven remaining Premiership fixtures cannot be played. However the Irish Cup semi-finals and final will go ahead next month.
A big stumbling block in the negotiations has been how European money will be distributed but it appears the talks are moving in the right direction.
In a previous meeting, there was 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 spots.
That suggestion provoked an angry response from Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry (below), who said clubs had held talks without consulting the Bannsiders.
Linfield are now expected to take the Champions League spot with Coleraine, four points behind on the 31-game mark, playing in the Europa League.
The Irish FA still plan to finish the Irish Cup, with Ballymena United facing Coleraine and Glentoran taking on Cliftonville in the final four with the winners securing a Europa League spot.
A NIFL statement read: “In a positive meeting of the Premiership Management Committee tonight (Thursday), all 12 Premiership clubs continue to work together to find an agreeable solution to the 2019-2020 season.”
“The Premiership clubs will reconvene for a further meeting over the weekend with a view to finalising a proposal for the NIFL Board on Monday 22 June.”
On Wednesday, Uefa announced that Champions League and Europa League qualifiers will kick off in August and the IFA must nominate three clubs to play in European competitions by August 3.
Irish FA president David Martin maintains that clubs can only sign players when the transfer window opens and that can only happen when the league season is over.
The Association had granted the Northern Ireland Football League an extension of the current season until July 31 but the Uefa announcement killed off lingering hopes of resurrecting the campaign in its entirety.
Clubs considered the option of playing the final seven rounds of league matches in August when it’s hoped fans can return to stadiums as there was no appetite to play behind closed doors.
Premiership sides weren’t keen on a proposal to finish the season on the pitch by playing two more rounds of fixtures, meaning teams would have played each other three times, or for an independent panel to choose a mathematical formula that would determine final league standings.
Northern Ireland’s eventual Champions League representative will play in a four-team preliminary round — scheduled to take place in Nyon, Switzerland in August — alongside outfits from Kosovo, San Marino and Andorra.
Semi finals will be staged on August 8, followed by a final on August 11 with the overall winner taking their place in the first qualifying round for a one-off game to take place on August 18 or 19.
Only San Marino have thus far nominated their team for the preliminary round and that is Tre Fiori, who were four points ahead in their league after 15 matches.
The Europa League preliminary round is, meanwhile, scheduled for August 20.
• BALLYMENA United manager David Jeffrey has had a five-game touchline ban reduced to one by the Irish FA.
The club appealed against the extra four-game penalty which he received for his actions after a defeat by Coleraine on March 7.
Jeffrey was sent off during the encounter and his automatic one-match suspension for that still stands.
It means he cannot be on the touchline for Ballymena’s Irish Cup semi-final if it does go ahead.