Football in Northern Ireland

Football in Northern Ireland

Football in Northern IrelandMuch overshadowed by the more popular leagues in England, and a lesser extent Scotland, football in Northern Ireland has been unfairly overlooked by those outside of the country. But the league in Northern Ireland is taken very seriously by locals with loyal fans travelling the nation to support their clubs.

The top flight in Northern Ireland has undergone several name changes, being known as the Irish Football League until 2003 when it was rebranded as the Irish Premier League. Only 5 years later it became known as the IFA Premiership and then in 2013 the NIFL Premiership was born.

Throughout the season 12 teams compete in the NIFL Premiership, who also have domestic competitions including the prestigious Irish Cup to contend with. The winners enter the UEFA Champions League at the qualifying stage with the two runners up entering the Europa League qualifying rounds. Sadly, UEFA don’t recognise the league as significant in continental terms and it ranks 47th out of 53 leagues in their rankings, below the likes of Luxembourg and Liechenstien. But that doesn’t prevent the locals from taking the NIFL Premiership very seriously indeed.

Cliftonville, Glentoran and Linfield have played in an impressive 114 season each of league football are their names are known around the continent as they have made appearances in prestigious European competitions. The likes of Portadown and Coleraine have long histories whilst the NIFL Premiership now also boasts newer clubs such as Warrenpoint Town and Ballinamallard United to give the league a strong competitive edge. Results are unpredictable, leagues tend to be separated by few points and the title race grips the country come the end of May.

Linfield fans have had the most to cheer throughout their history and their 51 titles are only bettered in Europe by Rangers of Scotland. In fact since winning their first crown in 1890 the club have won more than double the titles of their nearest rival, Glentoran who had won 23 titles. Cliftonville have rose to prominence in recent season with back to back titles in 2013 and 2014 and the league retains is universal appeal and “anyone can win” factor.

Although names like Joe Gormley, Rory Patterson and Curtis Allen may not be household names in the rest of the UK, in Northern Ireland these men have grown into legends through their prolific scoring in the league.

But it is not just the league that provides football action in the country but its the same teams that have dominated the prestigious Irish Cup. Again, Linfields record of 42 cup wins is close to a European Record and together with Glentoran they have dominated the competition. Cup Final days rings its own traditions, customs and it seems like the whole of nation tunes in.

With a passionate following, a strong supporter base and clubs steeped in tradition, Northern Ireland has a rich footballing heritage and a league to be proud of.

Footballers Caught in £30 Million Scandal

Jimmy Bullard

by  joncandy  Caption: Former footballer Jimmy Bullard

A string of high-profile footballers have been named in a betting scandal that’s thought to be worth more than £30 million. Jimmy Bullard and Roy Keane are just two of the figures that are thought to have been caught up in an alleged fraud instigated by former Coventry player Michael McIndoe.

Although nothing has yet been confirmed, many of Europe’s largest bookmakers and lottery providers are handing over McIndoe’s account details after police suspected he was swindling some of the UK’s top players.

A Potential Ponzi Scheme

According to reports, McIndoe promised returns of 20 per cent each month to those that invested in his scheme that promised exclusive access to private jets and nightclubs. However, after filing for bankruptcy back in October 2014, it emerged that McIndoe used most of the money to gamble on hundreds of sports matches.

After William Hill turned over McIndoe’s account details to the police, it was revealed that McIndoe had wagered almost £400,000 within a two-year period. This, according to the authorities, is only the tip of the iceberg and the reason why it’s believed McIndoe was running a Ponzi scheme (basically a scam where each new investor’s money is used to pay other investors).

The Italian Job

Instances of football and betting scandals aren’t simply confined to the UK. Over the last few years Italian football has been hit by a number of problems, most notably in 2006 and 2012 when a slew of teams were implicated in a mass match-fixing scandal. These incidents cost the Italian leagues hundreds of millions in revenue and almost crippled the game inside the country.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom in the world of European football. The world’s richest team, Real Madrid, a club that’s annual revenue exceeds £440 million, has avoided any major issues in the last few years. As well as being home to some of the top footballers in the world, Real Madrid has been a stable business enterprise with a clean image for more than a decade. This ability to dodge any proverbial bullets has allowed Real to dominate both on the pitch and in the stock markets.

Football is certainly one of the most entertaining sports in the world when things are going smoothly. However, when characters such as McIndoe bring the game into disrepute, it can certainly smudge the make-up of the beautiful game.