20 Sep 2023

The Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) are delighted to unveil the new five-year strategy – ‘A bold & brighter future for professional football’.

The new strategy has been developed following a robust six-month consultation led by the NIFL Board and senior team with support from independent consultants and key stakeholders within the game.

Feedback sourced from clubs and stakeholders through a series of workshops, surveys, and individual consultations shaped the resulting final strategy which will support NIFL’s mission to ‘Lead, promote and deliver professional football within NI’.

Recent seasons have marked unprecedented growth on and off the field for NIFL; as the second oldest league in world football is now looking forward with a clear vision to ‘Build on our heritage to transform our future’.

Based on the key values of passion, progression, inclusivity, accountability and integrity, the ambitious plan now seeks to answer some of the long-standing questions within the professional game and explore the benefits of change.

Gerard Lawlor, NI Football League CEO said, “Currently NIFL is thriving and the game in Northern Ireland simply has never been in a better position – but now is not the time to stand still, we must use it as a platform to kick on to even greater heights!

“It is important that this strategy challenges all within the professional game, but it also must challenge ourselves as an organisation. Our strategy must be ‘bold’ but also ‘brighter’ for clubs, players, supporters, and partners as we develop a plan that is the first of its type for league football here.

“As we look to plot out the next five years, we hope there are benefits for everyone, there will be challenges and difficulties, some will have to soul search ask serious questions – but with desire and goodwill we can sit back in five years and reflect on a different league.”

Endorsed by both the Irish FA and the European Leagues, the NIFL Strategy is built on four key pillars which are focused on growing the league collectively and supporting member clubs, these four pillars are Competitions, Governance, Revenue and Engagement.

The NI Football League was formed in 2013 and currently operates the top three male league competitions and top female division in Northern Irish football, with 48 competing member clubs. The Final of NIFL’s League Cup competition was the highest attended domestic football match in 2023, as Linfield defeated Coleraine at the National Football Stadium.

It’s a league steeped in history and has enjoyed a staggering 103% increase in attendance from supporters at live Premiership games over the last ten years, as thousands of new fans are enjoying the drama of the NIFL product. This growth also been supported by a growing television audience in the UK and Ireland thanks to exclusive broadcast partnerships with BBC Sport NI and Sky Sports.