NIFL Championship

Association football league in Northern Ireland
Football league
NIFL Championship
Founded2008 (as IFA Championship)
CountryNorthern Ireland
Number of teams12
Level on pyramid2
Promotion toNIFL Premiership
Relegation toNIFL Premier Intermediate League
Domestic cup(s)Irish Cup
League cup(s)Northern Ireland Football League Cup
Current championsPortadown (2nd title)
Current: 2024–25 season

The Northern Ireland Football League Championship (known as the Playr-Fit Championship for sponsorship reasons) is the second level of the Northern Ireland Football League, the national football league in Northern Ireland. Clubs in the Championship can be promoted to the highest national division – the NIFL Premiership, and relegated to the third level – the NIFL Premier Intermediate League.

In its current format, it was founded in 2008 as the Premier Intermediate League for members of the previous IFA Intermediate League that met the new stricter membership criteria,[1] though was marketed as the IFA Championship.[2] In 2009, it was extended to two divisions: Championship 1 and Championship 2 with promotion and relegation between the two.[3] In 2013, the Championship and Premiership became part of the Northern Ireland Football League, independent of the Irish Football Association (IFA).

Under reforms agreed by NIFL clubs in 2014, Championship 1 acquired senior status from the 2016–17 season onwards, continuing as the NIFL Championship. Championship 2 became the NIFL Premier Intermediate League, retaining its intermediate status.[4]

The second level in Northern Irish football was known as the B Division from 1951 to 1995, the Irish League First Division from 1995 to 2003, the Irish First Division from 2003 to 2008, and the IFA Championship from 2008 to 2013.


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. It effectively replaced the Irish Intermediate League, which had been the de facto second tier league below the Irish League since 1915. The Irish Intermediate League continued alongside the B Division until 1954 when it ceased to exist and its remaining clubs joined the B Division.

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. There was no promotion to the senior Irish League, although clubs could be elected to the senior league; Larne were elected in 1972 to replace Derry City, Carrick Rangers and Newry City were elected in 1983 when the Irish League expanded from 12 to 14 clubs, and Ballyclare Comrades and Omagh Town in 1990 when the league expanded to 16 clubs.

A new second tier was created in 1995 when the Irish League split into a Premier Division and First Division, each with eight clubs and automatic promotion and relegation introduced. In 2003 the Irish Football League was wound up, with the top division becoming the Irish Premier League and the second division becoming the Irish First Division. This continued for five seasons, until the NIFL Championship was created.


Under reforms agreed by the NIFL clubs in 2014, from 2016, the current Championship 1 will acquire senior status, continuing as the NIFL Championship, while Championship 2 will continue as the Premier Intermediate League, retaining its intermediate status and will thus become the top intermediate league in Northern Ireland.[5][6]

Current NIFL Championship clubs

Club Stadium Location Capacity[7]
Annagh United BMG Arena Portadown 1,250 (100 seated)
Ards Bangor Fuels Arena Bangor 1,895 (500 seated)
Ballinamallard United Ferney Park Ballinamallard 2,000 (250 seated)
Ballyclare Comrades Dixon Park Ballyclare 2,400
Bangor Bangor Fuels Arena Bangor 1,895
Dergview Darragh Park Castlederg 1,200
Dundela Wilgar Park Belfast 1,200
Harland & Wolff Welders Blanchflower Stadium Belfast 1,100
Institute Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium Derry 3,700
Knockbreda Breda Park Belfast 1,000
Newington Inver Park Larne 3,000
Portadown Shamrock Park Portadown 2,770

List of second-tier champions

Season Champions
Irish League B Division
1951–52 Linfield Swifts
1952–53 Linfield Swifts
1953–54 Cliftonville Olympic
1954–55 Larne
1955–56 Banbridge Town
1956–57 Larne
1957–58 Ards II
1958–59 Glentoran II
1959–60 Newry Town
1960–61 Ballyclare Comrades
1961–62 Carrick Rangers
1962–63 Ballyclare Comrades
1963–64 Larne
1964–65 Larne
1965–66 Larne
1966–67 Larne
1967–68 Dundela
1968–69 Larne
1969–70 Larne
1970–71 Larne
1971–72 Larne (elected to Irish League)
1972–73 Carrick Rangers
1973–74 Ballyclare Comrades
1974–75 Carrick Rangers (north/south play-off winners)
1975–76 Linfield Swifts (north/south play-off winners)
1976–77 Carrick Rangers and Dundela (shared)
Irish League B Division Section 1
1977–78 Ballyclare Comrades
1978–79 Carrick Rangers
1979–80 Ballyclare Comrades
1980–81 Newry Town
1981–82 Dundela
1982–83 Carrick Rangers (elected to Irish League)
1983–84 Limavady United
1984–85 Chimney Corner
1985–86 Dundela
1986–87 RUC
1987–88 Dundela
1988–89 Ballyclare Comrades
1989–90 Dundela
1990–91 Dundela
1991–92 Dundela
1992–93 Limavady United
1993–94 Dundela
1994–95 Loughgall
Irish League First Division
1995–96 Coleraine
1996–97 Ballymena United
1997–98 Newry Town
1998–99 Distillery
1999–00 Omagh Town
2000–01 Ards
2001–02 Lisburn Distillery
2002–03 Dungannon Swifts
Irish First Division
2003–04 Loughgall
2004–05 Armagh City
2005–06 Crusaders
2006–07 Institute
2007–08 Loughgall (not promoted)
IFA Championship
2008–09 Portadown
2009–10 Loughgall (not promoted)
2010–11 Carrick Rangers
2011–12 Ballinamallard United
2012–13 Ards
NIFL Championship
2013–14 Institute
2014–15 Carrick Rangers
2015–16 Ards
2016–17 Warrenpoint Town
2017–18 Institute
2018–19 Larne
2019–20 Portadown
2021–22 Newry City
2022–23 Loughgall
2023–24 Portadown

Knock-out competitions

In 1982, a knock-out competition for members was introduced, known as the B Division Knock-out Cup. It was discontinued after 2002, but a new Intermediate League Cup was played between 2004 and 2008. 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, 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.

Season Champions
B Division Knock-out Cup
1982–83 RUC
1983–84 Ballyclare Comrades
1984–85 RUC
1985–86 RUC
1986–87 Chimney Corner
1987–88 Dundela
1988–89 Ballyclare Comrades
1989–90 Omagh Town
1990–91 Dundela
1991–92 Dundela
1992–93 Limavady United
1993–94 Dungannon Swifts
1994–95 Dundela
1995–96 Limavady United
1996–97 Institute
1997–98 Harland & Wolff Welders
1998–99 Ballymoney United
1999–00 Moyola Park
2000–01 Harland & Wolff Welders
2001–02 Harland & Wolff Welders
Intermediate League Cup
2004–05 Bangor
2005–06 Crusaders
2006–07 Institute
2007–08 Loughgall
Championship 2 League Cup
2009–10 Harland & Wolff Welders

See also


  1. ^ "Premier Intermediate League (PIL)". Irish Football Association. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  2. ^ "IFA Championship". Irish Football Association. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  3. ^ Championship 2009/10
  4. ^ Northern Ireland Football League (2014). NI Football League Restructure Proposal.
  5. ^ "NI Football League – Restructure Proposal". Northern Ireland Football League. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  6. ^ Northern Ireland Football League (2014). NI Football League Restructure Proposal.
  7. ^ "Championship 2019/2020 – Venues". Soccerway. Retrieved 7 February 2020.

External links

  • Malcolm Brodie (ed.), Northern Ireland Soccer Yearbook (various editions)
  • v
  • t
  • e
National teams
  • Women's Premiership
  • Championship 1
  • Championship 2
Domestic cups
Defunct leagues
Defunct cups
  • v
  • t
  • e
Second level football leagues of Europe (UEFA)