2008–2013 (as IFA Championship)
2004–2008 (as IFA Intermediate League)
2003–2004 (as Irish League)
1999–2003 (as Irish League Second Division)
1977–1999 (as Irish League B Division Section 1)
1951–1977 (as Irish League B Division)
|Number of teams||30|
|Levels on pyramid||2–3|
|Promotion to||NIFL Premiership|
|Relegation to||Ballymena & Provincial Intermediate League
Mid-Ulster Football League
Northern Amateur League
Northern Ireland Intermediate League
|Domestic cup(s)||Irish Cup
IFA Intermediate Cup
|League cup(s)||Northern Ireland League Cup|
|Current champions||Ards (2012–13)|
|Most championships||Dundela (11)|
|2013–14 NIFL Championship|
The NIFL Championship is a football league in Northern Ireland. It is one level below the NIFL Premiership, which is Northern Ireland's national league. Clubs in the Championship have intermediate status.
It was founded in 2008 to succeed the IFA Intermediate League which folded as part of the reorganisation of top-level football in Northern Ireland that saw the creation of stricter entry criteria in respect of the newly established Premiership and Championship. In 2009, it was extended to two divisions: Championship 1 and Championship 2 with promotion and relegation between the two. The Championship is sponsored by the Belfast Telegraph and is marketed as the Belfast Telegraph Championship. It is operated by the Northern Ireland Football League, who took over from the Irish Football Association (IFA) for the 2013–14 season. The NI Football League is a private company that has 42 member clubs from the Premiership, Championship 1 & 2, who are each shareholders.
Results from Championship 1 are featured on the Press Association vidiprinter service. However, they are rarely seen by television viewers as the Saturday results often do not appear until after 5.15pm and therefore are not featured during the reading of the classified results. The results from Championship 2 are not carried on the Press Association vidiprinter service.
The NIFL Championship is the successor to the IFA Championship, IFA Intermediate League, the Irish Football League First Division during its last season (when it had intermediate status), and ultimately the Irish League B Division (latterly known as the Irish League Second Division).
The B Division of the Irish League was founded in 1951, and originally consisted of the reserve teams of the senior Irish League clubs alongside some of the top intermediate clubs. The B Division was split geographically into North and South sections in 1974 (with a play-off to determine the winners in 1974–75 and 1975–76), and then into Section 1 (containing the intermediate clubs) and Section 2 (the reserve teams of senior clubs) in 1977.
In 1999, the B Division Section 1 was renamed as the Irish League Second Division, and Section 2 became the Reserve League.
There was never any automatic promotion and relegation between either the B Division or Second Division and the senior Irish League.
In 2003, the Irish Premier League was formed by the top sixteen senior teams in the senior Irish League (which, since 1995 had been divided into a Premier Division and a First Division). The four remaining senior teams reverted to intermediate football, along with the top eight teams from the previous year's Second Division - in the Irish League First Division (which now became the top intermediate league), with the Second Division continuing with twelve teams. Automatic promotion and relegation between senior and intermediate football was introduced. There was also automatic promotion and relegation between the two divisions of the (now intermediate-status) Irish League.
In 2004, the Irish Football League was wound up and replaced by the IFA Intermediate League, consisting of two divisions of twelve, with promotion and relegation between the two. This continued for four seasons, until the Championship was created.
For one season only, 2008–09, there was also an IFA Interim Intermediate League for those former members of the IFA Intermediate League which had failed to meet the criteria for the Championship. These clubs were given a year to make improvements in order to join the Championship for 2009–10. Ten of the 12 clubs succeeded in meeting the necessary standard in 2009 and the Championship was then divided into two divisions.
In 2010–11, a "pyramid" system was introduced, with the possibility of promotion and relegation between the Championship and the four regional intermediate leagues, namely the:
- Ballymena & Provincial Intermediate League
- Mid-Ulster Football League
- Northern Amateur League
- Northern Ireland Intermediate League
Clubs in these leagues may only gain promotion to the Championship if they win their respective league championship and meet the necessary criteria. In the event that more than one league champion meets the criteria, only one will be promoted, to be decided by a play-off or series of play-offs.
In 2013, the Northern Ireland Football League assumed responsibility from the IFA for the Championship and it was renamed as the NIFL Championship.
Current NIFL Championship clubs (2013–14)
List of champions
|Irish League B Division|
|1951–52||Linfield Swifts[note 1]||n/a|
|1952–53||Linfield Swifts[note 1]||n/a|
|1953–54||Cliftonville Olympic[note 1]||n/a|
|1957–58||Ards II[note 1]||n/a|
|1958–59||Glentoran II[note 1]||n/a|
|1959–60||Newry Town[note 2]||n/a|
|1974–75||Carrick Rangers[note 3]||n/a|
|1975–76||Linfield Swifts[note 1] [note 3]||n/a|
|1976–77||Carrick Rangers/Dundela[note 4]||n/a|
|Irish League B Division Section 1|
|1980–81||Newry Town[note 2]||n/a|
|Irish League Second Division|
|IFA Intermediate League|
|2004–05||Armagh City‡||Tobermore United|
|2009–10||Loughgall||Harland & Wolff Welders|
|2010–11||Carrick Rangers‡||Warrenpoint Town|
|2011–12||Ballinamallard United‡||Coagh United|
Summary of champions
|Dundela||11[note 6]||1967–68, 1976–77 (shared), 1981–82, 1985–86, 1987–88, 1989–90, 1990–91, 1991–92, 1993–94, 1999–00, 2000–01|
|Larne||10||1954–55, 1956–57, 1963–64, 1964–65, 1965–66, 1966–67, 1986–69, 1969–70, 1970–71, 1971–72|
|Carrick Rangers||7[note 6]||1961–62, 1972–73, 1974–75, 1976–77 (shared), 1978–79, 1982–83, 2010–11|
|Loughgall||7||1994–95, 1995–96, 1996–97, 1997–98, 2003–04, 2007–08, 2009–10|
|Ballyclare Comrades||6||1960–61, 1962–63, 1973–74, 1977–78, 1979–80, 1988–89|
|Linfield Swifts||3||1951–52, 1952–53, 1975–76|
|Ards||2[note 7]||1957–58, 2012–13|
|Ballinamallard United||2||2002–03, 2011–12|
|Chimney Corner||2||1984–85, 1998–99|
|Limavady United||2||1983–84, 1992–93|
|Newry City[note 8]||2||1959–60, 1980–81|
In 1982, a knock-out competition for members was introduced, known as the B Division Knock-out Cup and sponsored by Smirnoff. It was discontinued after 2002, but a new IFA Intermediate League Cup was played between 2004 and 2008, sponsored in its first season by the Daily Mirror and thereafter by Carnegie. In 2008–09, there was no knock-out competition for Championship clubs, who participated with Premiership clubs in the Irish League Cup. In the 2009–10 season only, however, while Championship 1 clubs continued to participate in the Irish League Cup, a Championship 2 League Cup was inaugurated for those in Championship 2. From 2010–11 onwards, all Championship clubs from divisions 1 and 2 also competed in the Irish League Cup, and the Championship 2 League Cup was abolished.
Summary of winners