NIFL and Irish FA commit to helping Irish League clubs succeed on European stage
The Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) and Irish FA have vowed to help Irish League clubs raise their game in European competition.
There is a real danger that one Europa League spot could be taken away from the Irish League unless clubs can secure positive results this summer.
Northern Ireland is 52nd out of 55 nations in the 2018-19 Uefa Co-efficient list and football chiefs understand they need to redouble efforts to keep hold of their lucrative four places, guaranteeing a cash windfall for clubs.
The league champions will play at least four European games, pocketing at least £692k, while Europa League spots are worth around £240k for each club.
A NIFL spokesman stated: "We are aware of the current status of Northern Ireland's Uefa club co-efficient and will continue to monitor the impact this has on the NI Football League. There have been positive ongoing conversations and we are working with the Irish FA to support clubs competing in European competition."
It's understood that from the 2021-22 season, Uefa will introduce a third club competition to accompany the Champions and Europa Leagues and the provisional access list for the three season cycle of 2021-2024 indicates that nations 52nd and below will have only three qualifying teams.
An IFA source pointed to their five-year strategy 2017-2022 which outlines plans to introduce a performance academy for players aged 16-23, improve training and lifestyle programmes and explore the possibility of tweaking the season so players are in peak form for the European games.