Ballinamallard United's wait to get their season underway will be extended further after the Irish Football Association confirmed that the Department for Communities and Sport NI cannot support the request to have the NIFL Championship and Sadler's Peaky Blinder Irish Cup competitions delivered under ‘elite’ protocols.  

It was hoped the the competitions would be granted elite status which would have allowed both to get underway early in the New Year but the request to have the competitions delivered under ‘elite’ protocols was not supported by the Department for Communities and Sport NI.

It now looks as if the NIFL Championship will not commence until after the latest set of restirctions are lifted which will be February at the earliest. 

Patrick Nelson, CEO of the Irish FA, said: “This is a year in which, like many things, our game has taken a huge hit. There has been a toll on both the  physical and mental wellbeing of many in the game at all levels. We are acutely aware of this. Whilst we are disappointed, we understand this decision has been taken with the broader health, safety and wellbeing of everyone both in, and outside, of the football community in Northern Ireland in mind.   

“We have engaged consistently with the Northern Ireland Executive to make the case for these competitions to get underway with enhanced protocols but acknowledge that this simply won’t be possible in the timeframes scheduled. 

“Our dialogue with the Executive and our member clubs will continue, and our staff will be working hard behind the scenes to ensure we are ready to deliver these competitions when the restrictions allow.”

The Electric Ireland Women’s Challenge Cup also remains paused.