AS supporters will be aware, we have had to forfeit home advantage for our County Antrim Shield Semi Final against Crusaders on Tuesday 27 November at 7.45pm.
11(d) of the County Antrim Shield Rules states, “In the Semi-Final tie, the first drawn team shall host the fixture provided they have a Premiership license. If not, they shall forfeit home advantage. If neither team have a Premiership license the first drawn team shall host the fixture.”
Larne Football Club does not currently hold a Premiership Licence for the 2018/19 season. The club was awarded a Promotion Licence with Taylor’s Avenue nominated as our home ground; a licence the club has held for several seasons.
Inver Park did not meet the criteria during the licence application process last season however since then, extensive work has been undertaken to our home ground to bring our capacity to around 2,300 and we fully anticipate that Inver Park will meet the criteria for our application for the 2019/20 season.
Whilst we accept that the rule has been applied correctly, Larne Football Club is disappointed that the County Antrim Senior Shield Committee failed to alert the semi final participants before the draw on Saturday 27 October that Larne would not be able to host a semi final tie. Larne’s licensing status was known well in advance of the semi final draw, but this detail appears to have been overlooked.
Indeed, the County Antrim Senior Shield Committee failed to apply its own rules until almost two weeks after the draw and Larne Football Club had already gone to considerable effort to plan and prepare for the game with tickets due to go on sale today. It is clearly unsatisfactory that these efforts have been wasted.
It is vital that our domestic game is painted in the best possible light, and Larne Football Club goes to considerable effort to positively promote club football in Northern Ireland. Had the County Antrim Senior Shield Committee applied their own rules in advance of the semi final draw, the adverse press the reversal of the fixture has generated could have been avoided.
Despite the disappointment of the change of venue, Larne Football Club still very much looks forward to visiting our friends at Crusaders in what promises to be a tremendous occasion. We hope our supporters will travel in their numbers to Seaview to cheer us on in our second senior semi final of 2018.