Association football in Northern Ireland

Association football in Northern Ireland

Association football in Northern Ireland, widely known as football or sometimes as soccer (to avoid confusion with Gaelic football), is one of the most popular sports in Northern Ireland. Despite low match attendance at domestic league games, many people have an interest in the English Premier League or the Scottish Premier League.

The governing body in Northern Ireland is the Irish Football Association (IFA).

Governing body

The Irish Football Association (IFA) is the organising body for football in Northern Ireland, and had historically been the governing body for the whole of the island. It should not be confused with the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), which is the organising body in the Republic of Ireland.

The IFA sits on the International Football Association Board, which is responsible for the laws of the game.

The Northern Ireland Women's Football Association (NIWFA) is the IFA's women's football arm. It runs a Women's Cup, Women's League and the Northern Ireland women's national football team.


The domestic leagues is the IFA Premiership. Some of the major teams include Derry City FC, Glentoran FC and Linfield FC (although Derry City play in the Republic of Ireland's league). A notable historic club was Belfast Celtic, which won nineteen champiomships before resigning from the league and disbanding. In the past some Irish League clubs could draw respectable crowds, on a par with the English and Scottish leagues, but these have fallen heavily over the years.

The Milk Cup is a successful international youth tournament held annually in Northern Ireland, in which clubs and national teams from anywhere in the world may compete. Northern Ireland also played host to the 2005 UEFA Under-19 European Championships.

The Setanta Sports Cup was set up by its sponsors, television channel Setanta Ireland. It is an all-island mini-World Cup style tournament (two groups of four, then semis and final) featuring eight teams, four being from the League of Ireland and four from the Irish League. Despite fairly low turnouts for each jurisdictions leagues, the Setanta Cup drew relatively successful gate receipts and in its three-year existence has had one winner from the North (Linfield in 2005). This had led to speculation of an All-Ireland football league in the future. [ [ All Ireland Premier League ] ]

National team

The Northern Ireland national football team is one of the oldest international teams in the world. It originally played as an all-Ireland team until 1950, and competed in the British Home Championship which it won eight times. Until the 1950s it continued to select players born in the Republic of Ireland, despite the partition of Ireland in 1922.

Despite a poor run of form in the late 1990s and first few years of the 21st century, and a corresponding slump in the FIFA World Rankings, the Northern Irish enjoyed great success in the early and mid-80's, qualifying for two World Cups, and recently have had a revival in their fortunes under former manager Lawrie Sanchez, with home wins over Spain and England. They came close to qualifying for 2008 European Championships. From 2010 they are expected to take part in a Celtic Cup along with Wales, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland . It is planned to construct a new national stadium in the coming years, with likely sites being either the former Maze Prison or in the capital Belfast.


ee also

*Football in Northern Ireland
*Association football in the Republic of Ireland
*Sport in Ireland

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