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Saturday 14 December 2019

No Delaney as Ireland avoid relegation

NO SHOW: John Delaney. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
NO SHOW: John Delaney. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

Ireland have been spared from relegation in the Nations League after UEFA agreed to a revamp of the competition for next year.

A dismal performance under Martin O'Neill last year in the inaugural Nations League could have seen the Republic demoted to League C.

But at their congress in Slovenia yesterday, UEFA opted to expand Leagues A, B and C for the next time around so Ireland have effectively stayed up.

That was one of the main outcomes from a day of UEFA activity, where once again John Delaney was absent and his name was not mentioned in any public forum.

Delaney was elected to the prestigious UEFA Executive Committee in 2017. Since he stood down from his FAI roles in April, Delaney has not had any dealings with UEFA's main decision-making committee.

The Republic now stay in League B along with Russia, Austria, Wales, Czech Republic, Scotland, Norway, Serbia, Finland, Slovakia, Turkey, Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, Israel, Hungary and Romania . Instead of the three-team group used last time around, a draw in March for the next Nations League will see four groups of four teams, with the winners of each group promoted to League A and the bottom side demoted to League C.

"This change to the format follows a consultation process which involved all of UEFA's 55 national associations and reflects upon their desire to further minimise the number of friendly matches," UEFA said.

UEFA also decided on the name for a new club competition, which is likely to be of interest to League of Ireland teams.

The UEFA Europa Conference League will be a secondary competition to the main Europa League.

"The new competition will start in 2021 and is aimed at giving more clubs in more countries a chance to participate in European football," UEFA said.

They have yet to outline how exactly the new competition will work but it was initially touted as the Europa League 2, offering more European football to clubs from the lesser nations.

UEFA also decided that the 2021 Super Cup will be played in Belfast.

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