The Irish Football Association’s Licensing Committee has granted a record number of licences to clubs in Northern Ireland.
The UEFA, Premiership, Promotion and Championship licences are valid for the 2021-22 season and were awarded following “an immense effort” during unprecedented times, according to Licensing Committee chairman Allen McKinstry.
As part of the Irish FA’s ongoing implementation of club licensing policies, the committee met via video conference last night to consider applications for the award of the various licences – and granted a record 55 licences in total.
In line with current UEFA, Premiership, Promotion and Championship Licensing manuals, applicant clubs were assessed in five key areas: sporting, infrastructure/safety, personnel and administration, legal and financial.
UEFA club licences have been granted to Ballymena United, Cliftonville, Coleraine, Crusaders, Dungannon Swifts, Glenavon, Glentoran, Larne, Linfield, Portadown and Warrenpoint Town.
And a UEFA Women’s Champions League licence has been secured by reigning NIFL Women’s Premiership champions Glentoran Women for the first time.
Ballymena United, Carrick Rangers, Cliftonville, Coleraine, Crusaders, Dungannon Swifts, Glenavon, Glentoran, Larne, Linfield, Portadown and Warrenpoint Town have all received Premiership club licences.
Promotion club licences have been granted to the following clubs: Ards (Bangor Fuels Arena, Bangor), Ballinamallard United, Ballyclare Comrades, Dergview (Ferney Park, Ballinamallard), Institute (Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium, Derry-Londonderry), Harland & Wolff Welders (Dixon Park, Ballyclare), Loughgall (Stangmore Park, Dungannon), Newry City.
In addition Championship club licences have been secured by Annagh United, Ards (Bangor Fuels Arena), Armagh City, Ballinamallard United, Ballyclare Comrades, Banbridge Town, Bangor, Dergview, Dollingstown, Dundela, H&W Welders, Institute (Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium), Knockbreda, Limavady United, Lisburn Distillery, Loughgall, Moyola Park, Newington (Solitude, Belfast), Newry City, Portstewart, PSNI (The Dub, Upper Malone, Belfast), Queen’s University and Tobermore United FC (Mill Meadow, Castledawson).
Allen McKinstry said: "In April 2020 when I referred to the unprecedented circumstances in which we found ourselves we were not to know that the impacts of the pandemic would still be with us in April 2021.
“On behalf of the committee I want to both congratulate successful applicants and publicly acknowledge the tremendous efforts of the many club personnel, IFA Club Licensing staff, criteria experts and Licensing Committee members for their collective efforts in ensuring that the 2021-22 licensing applications and decisions were able to be completed on schedule.
“It has taken an immense effort during these very challenging times to conclude this year’s licensing process with 55 licences awarded, a record number.”
The Licensing Committee chairman also explained that when UEFA introduced club licensing for competitions during the 2004-05 season only four clubs in Northern Ireland achieved the UEFA Club Licence.
“Today we have 11 NIFL Men’s Premiership clubs achieving this prestigious award, which is an outstanding achievement,” he said.
“We also have for the first time every club in the top three tiers of Northern Ireland men’s football obtaining a now mandatory licence. My congratulations in particular go to all those clubs who have gained their first licence awards, including Glentoran Women who will now participate in the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
“Of course, I look forward to when all of our clubs can once again enjoy football on the pitch and I wish each of our representatives who qualify to participate in UEFA competitions in season 2021-22 every success and hope that they can add to the achievements of our clubs in Europe over recent seasons.”