Club Statement – Arbitration
We believe that the NIFL Premiership Committee, under Rule 10, have the power to make decisions on matters not specifically catered for in the written Rules and Regulations of the NIFL Premiership. Furthermore, we believe that the curtailment of the league due to the Covid pandemic, and the subsequent outcomes clearly meets the criteria for such events.
Throughout this process, our club’s position has been one of consistency. At Premiership Committee we proposed and argued for a ‘least harm’ outcome, including no relegation, but also including the promotion of clubs finishing first and second in the NIFL Championship.
We remain convinced that all Premiership club representatives were generally supportive of that philosophy, and that the enforced relegation decision taken by the NIFL Board in June was contrary to the agreed position of the majority of Premiership Committee members.
In addition, our Chairman was given assurances by the Vice Chair of the Premiership Committee and NIFL Board, that the Premiership Committee’s views on this issue would be represented to the NIFL Board as part of the decision making process.
However, in their submission to the IFA Appeal Panel, the NIFL disputed our Chairman’s account of events, citing the fact that no ‘official vote’ was taken, or recorded, and that no such representation ever took place, as evidence that no majority view on the relegation issue and it’s contravention of the principle of sporting integrity could be clearly discerned.
Subsequently, the IFA Appeal Board, inexplicably in our view, accepted that NIFL account, even though written evidence was provided by other Premiership Committee members in support of our Chairman’s account of events.
Since the NIFL Board’s original decision, it has taken three months to arrive at this point of the resolution process, two of those were taken by the IFA Appeal Board deliberations. In the meantime our club and our players have had to cope with the uncertainty and anguish resulting from a process that, in our view, is heavily weighted in favour of the status quo.
Consequently, we have concluded that we do not have enough confidence in the integrity and independence of the dispute resolution process to invest any more of our limited resources and energy in pursuit of what we now perceive to be an unattainable outcome.
Furthermore, we are aware that it has been a difficult and challenging season for all clubs and that the resumption of competitive games, with supporters present, is key to ensuring the financial viability of most of them. Consequently, and in accordance with a ‘least harm’ philosophy, we do not want to contribute to any further delay in achieving that objective.
Accordingly, the clubs Management Committee have made the extremely difficult decision not to pursue the issue by way of arbitration, but to try to move forward and rebuild in pursuit of the wellbeing of our club, our players, our supporters, and of football in general.
Finally, we would like to acknowledge and applaud the efforts of other clubs, Glentoran, Larne and Crusaders in particular, who attempted to explore potential solutions in keeping with the principle of solidarity, only to be frustrated by the vested interests of others.