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European football to return to Larne as champions granted UEFA licence for Inver Park



The Inver Reds, who are all but mathematically confirmed as Sports Direct Premiership champions for a second year running, have been granted the ability to play European home games at their home ground next season after passing all the relevant checks.

Last year, Larne were told they could not play at Inver Park after their synthetic surface failed FIFA’s mandatory Pro Standard pitch test, meaning they had to shift games against Finnish side HJK and Kosovo’s Ballkani to Cliftonville’s home ground Solitude.

However, despite not having made any publicised changes to the pitch in the intervening 12 months, this time around the club have been permitted to play at home as part of their UEFA licence, which means European football is headed back to Inver Park.

Meanwhile, every club in the running for European places have been awarded the appropriate UEFA licence, but were Carrick Rangers or Dungannon Swifts to qualify for Europe via the Play-Offs then they would both be playing their home games at neutral venues after nominating other stadiums.

In Carrick’s case, they would be swapping the Loughshore Lakeview Arena for the Ballymena Showgrounds, while Dungannon would up sticks from Stangmore Park and play at Solitude.

Unlike last year, when controversy reigned after Warrenpoint Town were booted out of the NIFL pyramid due to their financial position, there have been no such talking points down the Leagues this time around after the licences were handed out.

Every club have been granted the appropriate licence for the League they will be playing in next season, meaning there will be no problems with Portadown’s promotion to the Sports Direct Premiership, which was confirmed last weekend.

Similarly, all three of Annagh United, Bangor and Institute have been granted Premiership licences, which means the Playr-Fit Championship trio would be eligible to be promoted were they to first qualify for and then win the promotion/relegation Play-Off with Ballymena United.

As was already known, Dundela have not been awarded a Premiership licence for next season due to their home ground Wilgar Park not meeting the standards required, so, although they are currently third in the Championship, they cannot be promoted and therefore drop out of the Play-Off race and will stay in the Championship for another year.

All 12 Premier Intermediate League clubs have been awarded Championship licences, meaning Limavady United are headed to the second tier next season, while whichever one of Armagh City, Rathfriland Rangers or Ballymacash Rangers would be in line to go up should they win their Play-Off with Dergview.

In the women’s game, defending Premiership champions Glentoran have been awarded the UEFA licence required to take their place in this year’s Champions League.

The licences are awarded in line with the current UEFA, Premiership, Promotion and Championship licensing manuals, with clubs assessed on objective criteria across areas such as sporting, infrastructure/safety, football social responsibility, personnel and administration, legal and financial.

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