AS part of the restructuring of the Northern Ireland Football League, there are a number of changes to the second tier for the 2016/17 season.
What are the changes?
Name and Status
– The name has changed. Last season the league was called Championship 1, but the ‘1’ has been dropped and the league now goes by the name of the NIFL Championship. The third tier, previously called Championship 2, is now called the Premier Intermediate League.
– The NIFL Championship has now been given Senior status. That means second tier clubs no longer play in the Intermediate Cup or the regional intermediate cup competitions, and they enter the Irish Cup in the 5th round in January.
– NIFL Championship has been reduced from 14 teams to 12.
– Teams play each other home and away once. After 22 matches the league splits in half. The top six then play each other home and away and the bottom six do likewise taking the total matches to 32.
– Holiday fixtures return with matches scheduled for Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve. Stute travel to Dergview on Boxing Day and host Larne on New Years Eve.
– Teams cannot be promoted to the Premiership without being awarded a Promotion Licence. Licences are awarded in April. Applications for licences are made during the season.
– The NIFL Championship winners will gain automatic promotion to the Premiership.
– The playoff situation has changed for 16/17. To get into the playoff mix, clubs must finish in either second or third position. The second placed team plays the third placed team in a pre-playoff to decide who goes forward to play in the Promotion/Relegation playoff.
– The provision that allowed the highest placed team with a Promotion Licence in the top six to play in the Promotion/Relegation playoff no longer applies.
– If the NIFL Championship winners do not have a Promotion Licence then there is no automatic promotion, and the pre-play off procedure decides who goes forward to play the Premiership’s 12th placed team.
– If either the second or third placed NIFL Championship team does not have a Promotion Licence then there will be no pre-playoff and the team with the licence goes forward to playoff against a Premiership team. If neither team has a licence then there is no playoff at all.
– At the other end of the table, whoever finishes bottom of the NIFL Championship is relegated and the 11th placed team will playoff against the runners up of the Premier Intermediate League.