The NI Football League and the League of Ireland have agreed to introduce an all-island competition for women’s teams that will start play in June 2023.
Talks between both leagues have been ongoing for some time to create a new competition that will see SSE Airtricity Women’s Premier Division clubs take on their NIFL Women’s Premiership counterparts during the season break ahead of FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 - a period which created the perfect opportunity to bring the concept to fruition.
In order to aid the Republic of Ireland Women's National Team's preparations for the World Cup, the SSE Airtricity Women’s Premier Division season was structured to allow for a period where no League games would take place. This new competition will now be played during that scheduled break to ensure that women's domestic football continues to be played as excitement for the World Cup builds.
The competition, which is supported by both the Football Association of Ireland and the Irish Football Association, will involve 16 teams in total – 11 from the League of Ireland, 5 from the Northern Ireland Football League – split into four groups of four teams.
The group games will take place on June 18, June 25 and July 2. The top teams in each group will progress to the semi-finals, which will be played on July 9, before the last two compete for the silverware in the Final on July 16.
Northern Ireland Football League Chief Executive Gerard Lawlor said: “We’re delighted to accept the invitation from the FAI and the League of Ireland for our clubs to participate in this exciting new competition.
“This is a ground-breaking season for Women’s football for us with the introduction of professionalism, therefore the challenge of competing against new opposition is hugely positive and exciting for the growth of our game.”
League of Ireland Director Mark Scanlon believes this competition is a welcome addition to the domestic calendar: “We are looking forward to working with the Northern Ireland Football League to create what should be an exciting new competition that will act as an additional test for our SSE Airtricity Women’s Premier Division clubs.
“Finding the right time to host these games was always going to be the main obstacle to overcome but we have identified a block in June, when preparations for the FIFA Women’s World Cup will be ongoing and thankfully our colleagues in the NIFL have been able to work the dates into their schedule also. We believe this competition will be a brilliant start to what promises to be a historic summer for Women’s football in Ireland.
“Along with introducing the President’s Cup this year, this all-island competition is ensuring that our clubs are competing in more top quality games and that will help to strengthen our league as a whole.”
The clubs involved will be: Cliftonville, Crusaders, Derry City, Glentoran, Linfield, Athlone Town, Bohemians, Cork City, DLR Waves, Galway United, Peamount United, Shamrock Rovers, Shelbourne, Sligo Rovers, Treaty United and Wexford Youths.
All games will be available to watch live on LOITV, while further details of the draw and venues will be announced in due course.