Institute are fuming at the Irish FA Appeal Board's decision to dismiss their appeal over the club's relegation from the Danske Bank Premiership, however the north west side may have to give up the fight.
It could cost Stute more than £100,000 to take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and that is not a realistic option.
Sean Connor's men were relegated to the Championship after a mathematical formula used to decide standings in the Northern Ireland Football League.
Stute chairman Bill Anderson was left frustrated by the outcome and the club issued a statement last night highlighting the financial damage it will cause, adding: "We now need to take some time to reflect on the Appeal Board's judgement and to consider the options open to us."
A club source said: "We have read the verdict and it's balderdash, we have been shafted.
"You can go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport but that costs money and the club could not afford that. This outcome is no surprise. People have felt sorry for us but did nothing. Financially it will have a big impact in terms of gate receipts and sponsorship."
Stute will next season play in the Championship despite being only three points adrift of Warrenpoint Town when the Premiership season was halted, with seven rounds of fixtures remaining.
In their conclusion, the IFA Appeal Board drew attention to the “unenviable task” facing NIFL in finding a way forward for the leagues, with government restrictions and Uefa deadlines to navigate as well as the unpredictable nature of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Appeal Board were satisfied that NIFL “did not implement an unfair consultation process” when deciding on how to conclude the 2019-20 season and said the NIFL process was both “timely and open”.
The NIFL board contested that they had given due consideration to the impact of relegation on clubs and also league restructure, which they decided was “not feasible” as no clubs could be promoted to the Premier Intermediate League due to the curtailment of feeder leagues.
The requirement for three teams to be relegated from the Premiership next season also caused “concern” among top-tier clubs, according to the NIFL board.
The IFA were not satisfied that any member of either the NIFL board or Steering Group had exerted any “undue influence” on decisions and rejected Institute’s claim that the Premiership clubs had been unanimously against automatic relegation.
The Appeal Board did “empathise” with Institute’s “unfortunate” predicament but said that relegation is “part and parcel” of football. Institute had claimed that the decisions made by the NIFL board contravened NIFL regulations, IFA Competition Integrity rules, IFA Conflict of Interests regulations and Common Law. NIFL denied all accusations, and found the agreement of the Appeal Board.
Institute manager Sean Connor commented on Twitter earlier this week: “‘Empathy without action only helps to maintain the status quo’ — Noam Chomsky. The football family went into hiding through fear and a lack of direction from the leadership. Self preservation won out over the good of the football family.”
On Tuesday, the club said the delay in a verdict to their appeal was “exacerbating the injustice of the original NIFL decision”.
The NI Football League board said: “The NI Football League empathises with Institute FC given the challenging and unprecedented circumstances surrounding the conclusion to the season. Looking ahead, today’s decision now allows the NI Football League to progress arrangements for the start of 2020-2021 Danske Bank Premiership season, including fixture scheduling and meetings of the Premiership Management Committee.
“In addition, the NIFL board awaits the decision of the IFA Appeals Board following the appeal lodged by PSNI FC before being able to formally progress arrangements for the 2020-2021 Championship and Premier Intermediate League seasons.”