26 Jun 2020

The NI Football League have today confirmed the final league standings for the 2019/20 season.

At the NIFL’s Board meeting on Monday 22 June, the Board determined that following the conclusion of the consultation process with all member clubs via Management Committees, and the appraisal of all season-end options, the current (2019/20) league season would be curtailed immediately. It was also determined that the NIFL would engage an independent football data consultancy to recommend and apply a mathematical model in order to determine final standings in each division.

As you will be aware, there are a range of different possible models for determining league standings. A number of models have been considered and/or adopted by different leagues across Europe. To ensure that the fairest and most equitable outcome was achieved for all members clubs and the league as a whole, the NIFL Board decided to engage an independent third party to recommend the most appropriate model to adopt. 

The task of identifying and engaging the independent third party was carried out by the NIFL’s two independent board members (who have no links or associations with NIFL member clubs) in conjunction with the NIFL Managing Director. No other Board member had any involvement in this process due to conflicts of interest. 

The independent third party identified and engaged was 21st Club, the market leading football data consultancy which has experience in working with clubs and leagues globally.

The basis on which the NIFL engaged 21st Club, and the scope of 21st Club’s engagement, was clear: it was to recommend the fairest, most equitable and most appropriate model based on the following:

    1. Alignment with UEFA principles of applying an objective, transparent, and non-discriminatory procedure that is based on sporting merit
    2. Alignment with other curtailed European leagues
    3. Assessment of model appropriateness based on 21st Club statistical expertise

The NIFL Board could have decided to adopt a model based on its own assessment of the above criteria. The Board decided, however, that in the interests of fairness, reasonableness, proportionality and transparency, that adopting the model recommended by independent experts was the approach which would achieve the fairest and most equitable outcome.

The Season Curtailment Recommendation report issued by the 21st Club is available to view here

As outlined in previous statements, this has not been a straightforward situation for the league in unprecedented circumstances. 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.

We trust the above is helpful in explaining the context and background to which the final league placings were determined and thank you for your patience in reaching a conclusion to the process.