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Northern Ireland football league system: Wikis

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The Northern Ireland football league system is structured as two series of interconnected football leagues across Northern Ireland.

Contents

Structure

Northern Ireland football is categorised into three levels: senior, intermediate and junior. Clubs attain intermediate status by fulfilling certain criteria (e.g. owning or leasing its own enclosed ground). Senior status requires clubs to reach stricter criteria still. National leagues exist at senior and intermediate level. All junior leagues and most intermediate are organised on a regional basis.

Regionally, there are four regional football associations: the North East Ulster Football Association (also known as the County Antrim & District Football Association), the Mid-Ulster Football Association, the North West of Ireland Football Association and the Fermanagh & Western Football Association.

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Senior

The IFA Premiership, which is the national league of Northern Ireland, is the only senior league in Northern Ireland, and consists of twelve clubs. Each club must possess a domestic licence in order to attain or retain membership of the Premiership.

At national level there are two senior cup competitions: the Irish Cup and the Irish League Cup, although intermediate teams are entitled to enter the Irish Cup if they meet certain criteria.

At regional level, three of the four regional FAs organises its own senior cup competition. The North East Ulster Football Association runs the County Antrim Shield; the Mid-Ulster Football Association organises the Mid-Ulster Cup and the North West of Ireland Football Association organises the North West Senior Cup.

Intermediate

There is one national intermediate league. The IFA Championship (founded 2008), which had two divisions: Championship 1 and Championship 2. One club is automatically promoted from the Championship to the Premiership at the end of each season, and one club is relegated to the Championship from the Premiership. In addition, there is a play-off between the Championship runners-up and the second-bottom-placed team in the Premiership. In the event, however, that the Championship winners do not possess a domestic licence, there is no automatic promotion and, instead, there is a play-off between the runners-up and the bottom-placed Premiership team. In the event that neither the Championship winners nor the runners-up possess a domestic licence, there is no promotion.

The IFA Reserve League comprises the reserve teams of the twelve senior IFA Premiership clubs.

There is no "pyramid" system in Northern Ireland. In addition to these two leagues there are other independent, regional intermediate leagues which are not connected via promotion or relegation. These are:

At national level there is one senior cup competition: the Intermediate Cup. At regional level, each of the four regional FAs organises its own cup competition. The North East Ulster Football Association runs the Steel & Sons Cup; the Mid-Ulster Football Association organises the Bob Radcliffe Cup; the North West of Ireland Football Association organises the Craig Memorial Cup; and the Fermanagh & Western Football Association organises the Fermanagh & Western Intermediate Cup.

Junior

There are numerous junior leagues in Northern Ireland, including junior divisions of the Northern Amateur League and the Mid-Ulster League. The term "junior" is not related to the age of the players.

There is one national junior cup competition: the Irish Junior Cup. At regional level, each of the four regional FAs organises its own cup competition. The North East Ulster Football Association runs the County Antrim Junior Shield; the Mid-Ulster Football Association organises the Mid-Ulster Shield, the North West of Ireland Football Association organises the ???, and the Fermanagh & Western Football Association organises the Mulhern Cup.

The current system

For each division, its official name and number of clubs is given:

Level

League(s)/Division(s)

1

IFA Premiership
12 clubs

2

IFA Championship 1
14 clubs

3

IFA Championship 2
15 clubs

Previous systems

At national level, from 1890 until 1951 there was only one league the Irish Football League, which operated at senior level.

In 1951, the B Division was created at intermediate level.

In 1977, the B Division split into Section 1 and Section 2.

In 1995, the Irish Football League split into two senior divisions: the Premier Division and the First Division.

In 1999, the B Division Section 1 was renamed the Second Division and Section 2 was renamed the Reserve League.

In 2003, the Irish Premier League was created as the single senior league in Northern Ireland. The Irish Football League First Division reverted to intermediate status alongside the Second Division.

In 2004, the IFA Intermediate League (First and Second Divisions) replaced the Irish Football League.

In 2008, the IFA Premiership replaced the Irish Premier League, and the IFA Championship and IFA Interim Intermediate League replaced the IFA Intermediate League.

In 2009, the IFA Championship was expanded and divided into two divisions and the IFA Interim Intermediate League folded.

National league system since 1890

Years Senior Intermediate Reserves
1890-1951 Irish Football League none
1951-1977 Irish Football League B Division
1977-1995 Irish Football League B Division Section 1 Irish Football League B Division Section 2
1995-1999 Irish Football League Premier Division
Irish Football League First Division
1999-2003 Irish Football League Second Division Irish Football League Reserve League
2003-2004 Irish Premier League Irish Football League First Division
Irish Football League Second Division
IFA Reserve League
2004-2008 IFA Intermediate League First Division
IFA Intermediate League Second Division
2008-2009 IFA Premiership IFA Championship
IFA Interim Intermediate League
2009- IFA Championship 1
IFA Championship 2

† Senior clubs' reserve teams have intermediate status and compete against other intermediate teams in many competitions.


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