Northern Irish Premiership to lose a Europa League place

The Northern Ireland Football League is set to lose one of its three Europa League places, Uefa has confirmed.

The body has ruled that associations ranked below 50th in the country coefficients table will be allocated two spots for the 2020/21 season.

Northern Ireland is ranked 52nd and next season’s performances will have no bearing on the following campaign.

“The ranking at the end of the 2018/19 season defines the access list for the 2020/21 season,” a Uefa statement said.

The Irish League currently has three Europa League places, which are taken by the Irish Premiership runners-up, the Irish Cup winners and the playoff winners.

The league title winners also qualify for the Champions League.

The change to the number of places allocated to national associations was confirmed at a meeting of Uefa’s Executive Committee in Baku last week.

“The access list for club competitions 2020/21 was approved and includes the principle that all associations below position 50 of the ranking (51 to 55) be permanently allocated two spots in the Uefa Europa League,” its statement said.

The loss of the Europa League slot will require a rethink by NIFL on how its Europa League places are won.

“Having closely monitored the impact of the Uefa coefficient in recent months, the NI Football League is aware of the potential reduction in European places available to our member clubs from season 2020/2021 onwards.” a NIFL spokesperson said.

“We still await formal confirmation from Uefa on this matter, and once clarified the Premiership Management Committee will discuss and only then be able to advise the impact on the format of our competitions.”

Cliftonville were the Premiership playoff winners last season, with Ballymena United finishing second in the table and Crusaders lifting the Irish Cup.

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