Statement from Linfield Football Club

Posted : 26th June 2020 at 20:40:50

  1. The Board of Directors of Linfield Football Club welcomed the decision of the NI Football League (NIFL) Board to conclude the 2019/20 League season, due to the practical difficulties caused by the ongoing public health crisis, and to determine the final placings based on the recommendations from an independent consultancy company. This club would have much preferred to have finished the season on the pitch, however once it became clear that this was not possible, we fully endorsed the process followed to conclude the season and to rightly award this club a 54th League title. We would dedicate this deserved title success earned by our players to the heroic NHS staff and other key workers across the country who have kept us safe during this public health crisis, and also to those within the Linfield family who have been affected by this dreadful virus.

  2. For the past number of weeks we have engaged in intensive discussions with the other Premier League Clubs and NIFL in an attempt to reach an agreement to conclude the 2019/20 football season in a fair and equitable manner. We entered these discussions in a spirit of openness and transparency and sought to achieve a consensus which both met the concerns of the other clubs and was also in compliance with the overriding UEFA requirement that qualification for European competitions must be based on the principle of sporting merit. At all times, our primary wish was for the season to be concluded on the field of play, if possible. If that was to be deemed impossible due the ongoing coronavirus public health crisis, then a resolution based solely on sporting merit was our secondary goal.

  3. We were content with the decision of the NIFL Board to finish the league in a manner, which although not perfect, upheld the principle of sporting merit, protected the integrity of the league and complied with UEFA guidelines. This is what the vast majority of football fans would expect. We have been dismayed during this process that the issues of sporting merit and integrity have been completely overshadowed by what we considered to be excessive and unreasonable demands from some other clubs seeking a share of European revenues. Linfield have also been disappointed with the representatives of some clubs dealing with these complex issues through the press, social media, and by providing consistently misleading statements about the nature and progress of inter-club discussions. This club was prepared to discuss a proportionate one-off donation from the nominated European clubs to assist local football to recover from the Covid-19 crisis, but the unrealistic demands from other clubs made it totally impossible to reach any form of consensus. Any such donation would also have to be approved by UEFA and was never an option solely in the gift of local clubs.

  4. Linfield Football Club is fully aware of the difficulties which the pandemic has caused for all of society and for the footballing family. We recognise that clubs need to work together to sustain their recovery and this club is committed to the concept of a NIFL Solidarity Fund with contributions, both from our European representatives in 2020/21 and also from other stakeholders.

  5. In conclusion, we now need to put recent developments behind us and begin preparations for the European qualifying rounds in August 2020. We are determined to build on the progress made last year, to proudly represent the Irish league in Europe and strive to improve the League coefficient for the benefit of all. We will also work in partnership with NIFL and the other clubs to begin preparations for the 2020/21 domestic season, to rebuild damaged relationships, and hopefully return to competitive football attended by supporters in the not too distant future.

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