UEFA has revealed several significant decisions from their Executive Committee meeting, with ramifications for the Irish League and the Northern Ireland national team.
Dates set for Northern Ireland’s Euro play-offs
Northern Ireland’s Euro Cup 2020 play-off semi-final against Bosnia & Herzegovinia has been confirmed for October
The continental governing body confirmed that the match, along with other playoff semis, will take place on Thursday 8 October, with Northern Ireland’s potential final against either Republic of Ireland or Slovakia at Windsor Park set to take place on Thursday 12 November.
Both of those games are due to be played as the first matches in triple-header international windows along with Nations League fixtures.
Northern Ireland will host Austria on October 11 and travel to Norway on November 14 in the Nations League. They will then welcome the Austrians to Windsor on November 15 and host Romania on November 18.
Confirmation on how Nations League games are to be moved has yet to be provided, however, the play-off semi-final is now set to be the new Northern Ireland manager’s third game in charge, after Nations League games against Romania and Norway in September.
Should Northern Ireland make it through to the Euro 2020 finals, they will still face two matches, as originally scheduled, against Poland (June 14) and Sweden (June 18) at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium before taking on Spain in Bilbao (June 23) in Group E.
The finals will be played between June 11 and July 11 in 2021.
UEFA Super Cup 2021 remains in Belfast
The 2021 UEFA Super Cup is still due to be played at Belfast’s Windsor Park.
The National Stadium had won the right to host the one-off tie between next season’s Champions League and Europa League winners although it was thought it could be postponed one season, as has been the case for Champions League and Europa League final hosts. However, the match will continue as planned in Belfast.
UEFA reiterate August 3 deadline for nomination of European qualifiers
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UEFA, as expected, has reiterated its August 3 deadline for each nation to nominate teams for European competition.
The qualifying rounds will now be played on a single-leg basis in August.
The Champions League’s four-team preliminary round, featuring the Irish League’s top European nominee, will be played as semi-finals and a final on August 8 and 11. A venue has yet to be confirmed.
The first qualifying rounds of the Champions League and Europa League will be played on the week commencing August 17 with the second qualifying rounds a week later.
The August 3 deadline presents pressure for the Irish League to have its season concluded.
The clubs are now expected to meet tomorrow to ratify a solution to finishing the 19/20 campaign.
While the Irish FA remains intent on playing the Irish Cup semi-finals and finals before August 3, it would seem that playing the outstanding seven rounds of Premiership fixtures in time is now impossible.
Clubs must now decide how to square that particular circle.
Options would seem to be: concluding the campaign immediately before using a mathematical equation to decide final positions, playing two more rounds of fixtures so all teams have played each other three times or to conclude the season at a later date with an agreement on how to nominate European qualifiers before the finish.
That final option could be scuppered by the Irish FA declaring the season finished to open a transfer window before the Champions League and Europa League qualifiers.
That would, ironically, leave the two suggestions made by the NIFL Steering Group that caused such consternation amongst clubs.
Whatever happens, it is hoped a decision can be reached by the end of the week.
UEFA Euro Under-19 Championships
The UEFA Euro Under-19 Championship is coming to Northern Ireland later this year. The tournament had been postponed by the coronavirus crisis but will be played across October and November.
Northern Ireland’s Under 19 team will be joined by the seven qualifiers.
The group stage will be played in two groups of four from October 8-14 with the semi-finals and semi-finals and finals to be played between November 9-18.
There will also be a fifth-placed play-off in November to decide the fifth team qualified for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup.