22 May 2020

While the sporting environment in Northern Ireland remains uncertain, the NI Football League is committed to carrying out further due diligence around the resumption of football to ensure informed decisions are made in the best interest of clubs, players, supporters and our partners.

Following consultation with member clubs and recommendations from the NIFL Covid-19 Steering Group (the ‘Steering Group’), the Board of Directors (the ‘Board’) has this week agreed a number of key actions and an indicative timeline. 

The Board supports member clubs’ continued desire to conclude the current season by playing all remaining fixtures and this remains subject to due regard being given to the following principles: 

  1. Protecting the health and wellbeing of all individuals (including players, staff, officials, spectators, volunteers and other stakeholders) in line with government and medical guidance and advice;
  2. Ensuring the financial sustainability of member clubs; and
  3. Preserving the sporting integrity of the leagues. 

It has been agreed that the Steering Group fully appraises the ‘season end’ options for all leagues and makes a recommendation to the NIFL Board by 30 June 2020. These options, and any decision, will be underpinned by the above principles. This process will include further consultation in advance of 30 June, with all member clubs, to ensure all views are considered. 

The NIFL (alongside the Irish FA) will continue to liaise with UEFA to comply with their deadlines in respect of nomination of clubs to participate in next seasons European Club Competitions. The Steering group will consult with all key stakeholders and member clubs to input into the nomination process. 

 The Board’s rationale in making this decision is as follows:

  • Allow for due diligence and appraisal of ‘season end’ options and ensure clubs have the required detailed information to make informed decisions and continue to learn from other countries, leagues and sports
  • Allow more informed decision making following a progress review of the current NI Executive plans and guidance
  • Consider the impact of Sport NI’s framework guide towards a resumption of sport and the Irish FA’s proposed Return to Train and Return to Play protocols
  • Work within a timeline which allows clubs to continue to avail of the government Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
  • Allow Irish FA and member clubs opportunity to confirm arrangements regarding player registrations and contracts, and also consider the impact on transfer windows following the outcome of IFA’s Player Registration Sub Committee decisions
  • Provide clarity for club communication with their players, staff and supporters on the current position

The Board, along with key stakeholders, is responsible for ensuring all options are fully researched and considered. We again thank our member clubs, supporters, sponsors and the media for their continuing patience and understanding during these unprecedented times.