The Northern Ireland Football League today announced that that the 2019/2020 season has been “curtailed immediately” and that a mathematical model will be applied to determine final standings in the Irish Premiership, Championship and Premier Intermediate League.
NIFL also declared that “titles will be awarded to the winners of each division and that there will be “automatic promotion and relegation between divisions".
An independent football data consultancy will determine the mathematical model used. It would now be a huge surprise if table topping Linfield were not crowned top flight champions while Portadown and Annagh United are expected to win the Championship and PIL respectively and gain promotion in the process.
When the decisions are made on the final standings, which should see Linfield confirmed as Champions League entrants and second placed Coleraine going into the Europa League, it will end a process that has taken over three months and lurched from one embarrassment to another after football was halted here in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
There have been rows, claims, counter claims, splits, proposals galore and questions about those running the game with criticism flying as meeting after meeting brought no resolution.
The NIFL statement released this morning following a NIFL Board meeting last night read: “It is acknowledged that no decision could be made to fully satisfy all members but the NIFL Board believe the following decisions are the fairest and most equitable, as well as the only viable options available.
“Confirmation that the current (2019/2020) league seasons will be curtailed immediately.
“A mathematical model will be applied to determine the final standings in each division.
“The mathematical model will be determined by an independent football data consultancy. Any model adopted will follow best practice across other leagues in Europe and in accordance with UEFA principles.
“In line with previous proposals, there will be titles awarded to the winners of each division and automatic promotion & relegation between divisions. This will not be confirmed until after the determination of the independent consultants is finalised.
“The 2020 NIFL Women’s Premiership and Women’s Academy League seasons will be played later this year in a reduced format.
“Finally, the NI Football League recognise the future challenges ahead for our clubs and has committed to work with members and other key stakeholders to establish a NIFL Covid-19 Recovery Scheme.”