The venue for this season’s County Antrim Shield final has been plunged into doubt after Linfield registered an appeal with the Irish FA.
The Blues are set to face Crusaders and it was announced that Seaview would host the final, which is scheduled to take place on Tuesday January 24.
However, Linfield have claimed that, in making the decision to play the decider at Crusaders’ home ground, the County Antrim FA were acting in opposition to the competition rules.
The County Antrim FA’s Rules Of The Senior Challenge Shield Competition state, in rule 11(d), that the final shall be hosted at a ground which “shall be neutral and deemed appropriate” and which “shall be chosen by the Committee of the Association.”
The rule continues to state that the final may be played on the ground of either team “if the Clubs agree.”
Rule 11(d) then states: “Should a suitable neutral venue not be available and the finalists do not agree to play on the ground of either, then the Committee shall instruct the finalists to toss a coin with the winner hosting the final.”
It was decided by the committee, in a vote between two proposals, to host the January final at Seaview. The result was four votes in favour to two against with two abstentions and representatives of both Linfield and Crusaders were present.
However, Linfield have now appealed the decision to the Irish Football Association.
“There is an appeal lodged with the IFA, which was sent by recorded delivery on Thursday,” confirmed Linfield chairman Jim Kerr. “The issue is that the County Antrim FA broke their own rules.
“The rule clearly states that the venue has to be neutral or if a neutral venue cannot be found, it will be decided by the toss of a coin.
“The County Antrim FA picked Seaview. We had a representative at the meeting but he wasn’t aware of the rules. The people who were dealing with it weren’t aware of the rules either.
“The IFA is the governing body of all of the associations and we have lodged an appeal, which I doubt will be heard until January now.
“It’s not that we have an issue with Seaview, it’s the fact that the County Antrim FA broke their own rules.
“There are two suitable grounds in the Oval and the Ballymena Showgrounds.”
However, County Antrim FA Secretary Bernard Thompson refuted the claims that the competition rules had been broken.
He said: “Both clubs had representatives at the meeting when a vote was taken on where the final was going to be played.
“Eight senior clubs voted on two proposals and voted in favour of hosting the final at Seaview by four votes to two with two abstentions.”
Thompson went on to explain that, while the venue for last year’s final between Ballymena United and Linfield was decided on the toss of a coin and the match was played at Windsor Park, this season the committee felt that was not an option due to the increased fee requested by the Irish FA for the use of the National Football Stadium.
That’s because the IFA ruled that a final is not a home fixture for Linfield and therefore could not be hosted as such at Windsor Park. Subsequently, a fee would have to be paid to the IFA for the use of the National Football Stadium, as was the case last season.
“This year we realised that there could not be the toss of a coin due to the expense of playing the match at Windsor Park,” Thompson continued.
“Some venues were neutral but not appropriate and other venues were appropriate but not neutral. The vote was taken that the final would be at Seaview and both clubs were present.”