The County Antrim Shield final will now be played at a neutral venue to be decided on January 11.
Since yesterday’s announcement that Linfield’s appeal over staging the decider at the home of their opponents Crusaders had been successful, fans have been asking why it was upheld.
The Blues claimed that in making the decision to play the final 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.”
It seems that is the key phrase in this case.
It had been 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.
“The decision by the IFA has vindicated our decision to make an appeal,” said Jim Kerr on Wednesday evening. “We look forward to playing Crusaders in the County Antrim Shield Final at a neutral venue and I am sure it will be a good game of football.”
Linfield’s appeal was lodged in the belief, according Kerr at the time, that “the County Antrim FA broke their own rules”.
“It’s not that we have an issue with Seaview, it’s the fact that the County Antrim FA broke their own rules,” Kerr continued.
“There are two suitable grounds in the Oval and the Ballymena Showgrounds.”
County Antrim FA Secretary Bernard Thompson had refuted claims that the competition rules had been broken. He 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.