The decision of the Irish FA to allow Belfast-based Sport & Leisure Swifts to change their name to Belfast Celtic has poured cold water on plans to bring that club into the Ulster Senior League.
It is believed that ambitious behind-the-scenes talks between club officials and Ulster Senior League representatives had been at an advanced stage recently.
Sport & Leisure Swifts, who play in the Premier Intermediate League, will now go under the Belfast Celtic banner for the start of the 2019/20 season.
At the club’s AGM in June, members voted on the name change, but the IFA said the request had come ‘too late’ for the current season.
The Belfast City Society and Belfast Celtic Young Men’s Club both expressed concern and a frustrated Sport & Leisure Swifts explored the possibility of crossing into the USL.
“The Ulster Senior League was involved in talks with members of the club, who wanted to join our league as Belfast Celtic,” the USL Secretary, Niall Callaghan, said.
“In November, the USL executive met with members of their club committee and those talks were very positive.
“Our discussions were with a view to the club coming into the Ulster Senior League for the 2019/20 season. We were in open communication with the FAI and the IFA on the matter.”
Mr Callaghan said the weekend’s news that Sport & Leisure Swifts’ rebrand had been accepted was likely to shelve those plans.
He added: “It would have been a massive boost to the Ulster Senior League to welcome a name like Belfast Celtic into our League. We would like to thank Sport & Leisure Swifts for their interest and for seeing the value and standard offered by the Ulster Senior League.”
The USL Secretary said his committee was ‘actively pursuing other avenues’ in a bid to increase participation numbers within the League.
The original Belfast Celtic FC withdrew from the Irish League in 1949 following a riot during their St Stephen’s Day fixture with Linfield in 1948.
Belfast Celtic won 14 League titles and eight Irish Cups. They haven’t competed for 70 years, but are still third in the Northern Ireland roll of honour.Tags: