Irish Premiership: League to take two-week break amid rise in NI Covid-19 cases

The derby between Glentoran and Linfield was one of Saturday's games to be called off
The Belfast derby between Glentoran and Linfield was one of Saturday’s games to be called off

The Irish Premiership will be halted for two weeks amid Northern Ireland’s most recent Covid-19 surge.

Three fixtures will go ahead as scheduled on Saturday before the competition is suspended until 23 January.

The Northern Ireland Football League has committed to providing testing to players, officials and staff before the league resumes.

The top flight of football in Northern Ireland is categorised as elite sport.

Under government directives the games can continue despite new lockdown restrictions, but NIFL has come under increasing pressure to suspend matches amid growing concerns from players, staff and officials.

Teams will be allowed to resume training from 18 January in order to prepare for a return to action five days later.

“We have been monitoring the health situation closely and listening to participants right across the game.,” said Irish FA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson.

“Football continues to have a key role in tackling this pandemic and it is in this spirit that this temporary suspension has been enforced.”

Of Saturday’s six scheduled fixtures, which were initially postponed from Boxing Day, only Dungannon Swifts’ trip to Warrenpoint Town and the north Belfast derby between Cliftonville and Crusaders are set to go ahead.

The third game to take place on Saturday – Coleraine’s trip to Carrick Rangers – is another previously postponed fixture that was able to after rescheduled after the teams’ respective games on 9 January were called off due to Covid-19 cases at Ballymena United and Larne respectively.

BBC News