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Points for debate in Northern Ireland

Published: Tuesday 2 October 2007, 16.26CET
Appeals and points adjustments overshadowed the end of the last Northern Irish season and such issues are already attracting attention in this campaign.
by Kenny Archer
from Belfast

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Published: Tuesday 2 October 2007, 16.26CET

Points for debate in Northern Ireland

Appeals and points adjustments overshadowed the end of the last Northern Irish season and such issues are already attracting attention in this campaign.

Appeals and points adjustments overshadowed the end of last season in the Irish League and such issues are already attracting attention in this campaign.

New structure
The difference is that the arguments and debates have not surrounded matters on the pitch - not yet anyway. This is shaping up to be the most important season in Northern Irish domestic football for around a decade with half a dozen teams in the 16-team Premier League fearful of missing out on a place in the new 12-team league which is due to commence next season.

Final reshuffle
An independent panel will decide on the make up of this new league at the end of the season. The top eleven clubs once the rankings have been finalised at the end of this term - with points to be added for performances in the cup competitions - will automatically go into the new league with a final place being filled by the winner of a play-off series involving the clubs ranked 12 to 15.

Angry clubs
However, the interim rankings issued, which also take into account finance, facilities, business planning, personnel and attendances, have already caused controversy, with several clubs unhappy about their standing. Crusaders FC are rated at 15 but have appealed against some of their gradings along with Donegal Celtic FC who have only been ranked 17th overall.

Donegal protests
Donegal had threatened legal action before they were admitted to the top division for the 2003/04 season and their manager Paddy Kelly says there is a sense that they are not getting a fair chance again. "People and players who have been at this club for some time feel we are being squeezed out of senior football after working so hard and so long to get here," he said.

Disappointing outcome
"We achieved the status on the pitch when we beat Institute [FC] in the promotion play-off - and then to be told that our facilities aren't as good as those of some other clubs is disappointing," he said. "In fact, the grading system has left our members amazed. We totally disagreed with some of the gradings we received and believe we should be rated much higher."

Chain reaction
Yet if Crusaders and Donegal Celtic do move up the rankings table, you can be certain that those they overtake will issue complaints and possibly appeals of their own. Forget the league table, the rankings table is the one to watch in Northern Ireland this season.

Last updated: 02/10/07 19.03CET

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