Irish Football Association

The Irish Football Association (IFA) is the governing body for association football in Northern Ireland. It organised the Ireland national football team from 1880 to 1950, which after 1954, became the Northern Ireland national football team.

Irish Football Association
Irish Football Association logo
Founded18 November 1880
HeadquartersNorthern Ireland
FIFA affiliation
  • 1911–1920
  • 1924–1928
  • 1946–present
UEFA affiliation1954
IFAB affiliation1886
PresidentDavid Martin


IFA badge original
Original Irish FA crest

Foundation of the IFA

The IFA was formed on 18 November 1880 by seven football clubs mostly in the Belfast area, as the organising body for the sport across all of Ireland. A meeting was called by Cliftonville of other football clubs that followed the rules set out by the Scottish Football Association (SFA). At that meeting, on 18 November of that year, seven clubs formed the IFA, making it the fourth oldest national football association in the world (after those of England, Scotland and Wales). The founding members were: Alexander, Avoniel, Cliftonville, Distillery, Knock, Moyola Park and Oldpark.[1] The IFA's first decision was to form an annual challenge cup competition similar to the FA Cup and Scottish Cup competitions, called the Irish Cup. Two years later, Ireland played its first international against England, losing 13–0 (which remains a record for both teams; a record win for England, and a record loss for (Northern) Ireland).

North/South Split and the foundation of the Football Association of Ireland

Irish Football Association, Belfast - - 1189134
Belfast Headquarters of the Irish Football Association at 20 Windsor Avenue, Belfast.

Shortly after the partition of Ireland, in 1921, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) was established as a rival association to regulate the game in what was to become the Irish Free State. The immediate cause of the split lay in a bitter dispute over the venue for the replay of an Irish Cup match in 1921 involving Glentoran of Belfast and Shelbourne of Dublin. When the first cup match was drawn in Belfast, because of the Irish war of independence, the IFA reneged on a promise to play the replay in Dublin and scheduled the rematch again for Belfast. Shelbourne refused to comply and forfeited the Cup.[2] Such was the anger over the issue that the Leinster Football Association broke away from the IFA and formed its own national association. Those behind the FAI believed that football should be regulated by a federation based in the Irish Free State's capital, Dublin; they also accused the IFA of neglecting the development of the game in the South. The IFA's supporters argued that the federation should be based where the game was mainly played – namely Ulster, and its principal city Belfast.

Both associations claimed to represent the whole of the island, each competing internationally under the name "Ireland" and selecting players from both the rival national leagues, which also split at this time. Interventions by FIFA gave the FAI de jure organising rights over the 26 counties of the Republic, with the IFA restricted to Northern Ireland. From the 1950s onwards, the IFA no longer claimed it was the association for the whole of Ireland. In 1960, the association moved to its present location on Windsor Avenue in south Belfast, in a building once occupied by Thomas Andrews. The IFA continued to regulate the game in Northern Ireland, and all results obtained by the Irish national side and records in the Irish Football League and the cup competition stand as Northern Irish records.


Irish Football Association
Irish Football Association wall poster
1880 – IFA founded in Belfast, representing all of Ireland ("Ireland")
1921 – FAI founded in Dublin, representing Southern Ireland ("Irish Free State")
1936 – FAI begins also selecting Northern players ("Ireland"/"Éire")
1946 – FAI stops selecting Northern players ("Republic of Ireland" as of 1954)[3]
1950 – IFA stops selecting Southern players ("Northern Ireland" as of 1954)[3]


IFA (today Northern Ireland) represented all of Ireland between 1880–1950
FAI (today Republic of Ireland) represented all of Ireland between 1936–1946

Along with the other Home Nations' associations (the English FA, the Scottish Football Association, and the Football Association of Wales), the IFA sits on the International Football Association Board, which is responsible for the laws of the game. The IFA continues to have responsibility for the running of the Northern Irish national team.

Women's football

The Northern Ireland Women's Football Association (NIWFA) is the IFA's women's football arm. It runs a Women's Cup, Women's League and the Northern Ireland women's national football team. In April 2014, Northern Ireland's Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure Carál Ní Chuilín threatened to cut the IFA's funding unless it stopped treating women's football as "an after thought".[4]


  • 1880–1889 Lord Spencer Chichester
  • 1889–1909 Marquess of Londonderry
  • 1909–1912 Alexander H. Thompson
  • 1912–1914 Hugh Hegan
  • 1914–1945 Sir James McIlmunn Wilton
  • 1945–1948 Austin Donnelly
  • 1948–1957 Frederick J. Cochrane
  • 1957–1958 Joseph MacBride
  • 1958–1994 Harry Cavan
  • 1995 Sammy Walker
  • 1995–2007 Jim Boyce
  • 2007–2010 Raymond Kennedy
  • 2010–2016 Jim Shaw[5]
  • 2016– David Martin [6]

Source: M. Brodie (ed.) (n.d.) The Northern Ireland Soccer Yearbook 2008/2009. Belfast:Ulster Tatler Publications

See also


  1. ^ M. Brodie (1980) 100 Years of Irish Football. Belfast:Blackstaff Press
  2. ^ "Football Association of Ireland".
  3. ^ a b Ryan, Sean (1997). The Boys in Green: the FAI international story. Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 1-85158-939-2. pp. 50
  4. ^ "Irish Football Association must give girls equal status or I'll cut cash: Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin". Belfast Telegraph. 9 April 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  5. ^ "Jim Shaw elected Irish Football Association president". BBC News Online. 25 November 2010. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  6. ^ BBC News

External links

1890–91 Irish League

The 1890–91 Irish League was the first year of league football under the Irish Football Association.

Alan Snoddy

Alan Snoddy (born 29 March 1955) is a retired Northern Irish football referee, known for having refereed two matches in the FIFA World Cup: one in 1986 and one in 1990. At the 1986 World Cup Snoddy was appointed to referee the game between Morocco and Portugal in Guadalajara which ended 3-1 to Morocco. In the 1990 World Cup Snoddy refereed the game between Colombia and West Germany which ended 1-1 at the San Siro in Milan.

Snoddy served as Referee Development Officer for the Irish Football Association a position which he left in 2014 although still works as a Referee Observer for both the Irish Football Association (IFA) and UEFA. He is also a member of the UEFA Referee Convention Panel and is widely used assisting countries develop their refereeing structures. He works at the UEFA Referee Centre of Excellence coaching young promising referees.

He is also a FIFA Referee Technical Instructor and currently President of the Cyprus F A Referee Committee.

Association football in Northern Ireland

Association football in Northern Ireland, widely known as football or sometimes as soccer (to avoid confusion with Gaelic football), is one of the most popular sports in Northern Ireland. The governing body in Northern Ireland is the Irish Football Association (IFA) (not to be confused with the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) in the Republic of Ireland). Gaelic football, rugby union and association football are the most popular sports in Northern Ireland.

Christophe Moulin (footballer)

Christophe Moulin (born April 23, 1971) is a former football player from Switzerland and currently Performance Coach of the Irish Football Association.

Moulin played for four Swiss professional clubs before taking up the role of Academy Manager of Neuchâtel Xamax FC for five years.

During the 2003-2004 season he was appointed as caretaker Head-Coach of Swiss Super League club Neuchâtel Xamax FC and managed to save them from relegation.

Cliftonville F.C.

Cliftonville Football & Athletic Club is a Northern Irish semi-professional association football club playing in the NIFL Irish Premiership. The club was founded in September 1879 by John McCredy McAlery in the suburb of Cliftonville in north Belfast, it is the oldest football club in Ireland and celebrated its 130th anniversary in 2009. Since 1890, the club has played at Solitude. Cliftonville contests the North Belfast derby with nearest rivals Crusaders, and also has historical rivalries with Belfast's Big Two clubs, Glentoran and Linfield.

The club has won the Irish League Premiership five times outright including one shared title, the Irish Cup eight times and the NI Football League Cup five times.

Football Association of Wales

The Football Association of Wales (FAW; Welsh: Cymdeithas Bêl-droed Cymru) is the governing body of association football and futsal in Wales, and controls the Welsh national football team, its corresponding women's team, as well as the Welsh national futsal team. It is a member of FIFA, UEFA and the IFAB.Established in 1876, it is the third-oldest national association in the world, and one of the four associations, along with the English Football Association, Scottish Football Association, Irish Football Association and FIFA, that make up the International Football Association Board, responsible for the Laws of the Game.

Gold Cup (Northern Ireland)

The Gold Cup is a defunct cup competition which involved competitors from Ireland and from 1921 onwards, just for Northern Ireland. It was initially run by the New Irish Football Association but later, and mainly, by the Irish Football Association.

The competition was first played in the 1911–12 season after seven of the eight participating clubs left the IFA (only Linfield FC remained) after a dispute over money and founded the New IFA. This new organisation introduced the cup as the "New Irish Cup". At the end of the season after many discussions, the dissident clubs returned to the IFA and the tournament was not held in 1912-13. However, it was revived by the IFA in 1913–14. In the seasons 1915–16 to 1918–19 it was played in a league format. This involved a play-off between the two teams topping the table in the first of these seasons. The competition was last staged in 2001.

Irish Cup

The Irish Football Association Challenge Cup (also known as the Tennent's Irish Cup for sponsorship purposes) is the primary football knock-out cup competition in Northern Ireland. Inaugurated in 1881, it is the fourth-oldest national cup competition in the world. Prior to the break-away from the Irish Football Association by clubs from what would become the Irish Free State in 1921, the Irish Cup was the national cup competition for the whole of Ireland.

Since December 2015, the cup has been sponsored by Tennent's Lager – the competition's first title sponsor since 2012. It was previously sponsored by Nationwide Building Society, Bass Ireland Ltd and JJB Sports. 126 clubs entered the 2018–19 competition.

Crusaders are the current holders, having defeated second-tier side Ballinamallard United 3–0 in the 2019 final to lift the Cup for the fourth time overall, and the first time in the 10 years since winning the 2009 final.

Jim Magilton

James Magilton (born 6 May 1969) is a Northern Irish former footballer and manager, who is the elite performance director with the Irish Football Association, and former manager of the Northern Ireland national under-21 football team.

Magilton started his playing career with Liverpool and remained with the club until 1990 when he joined Oxford United. After scoring 34 goals from midfield in 150 league appearances he signed for Southampton in 1994. Three years later he moved to Sheffield Wednesday for two seasons before going on briefly on loan to Ipswich Town – the move was made permanent in 1999.

Magilton's club career ended at Ipswich, having made over 250 league appearances. He moved into management at Ipswich, where he led the club for three years before managing Queens Park Rangers for a brief spell. Magilton also represented his country, making 52 appearances for the Northern Ireland national football team, scoring five goals.

Lisburn Distillery F.C.

Lisburn Distillery Football Club is a Northern Irish, intermediate football club who are based in Ballyskeagh, County Down and play in the NIFL Premier Intermediate League.

Moyola Park F.C.

Moyola Park Association Football Club is an intermediate, Northern Irish football club playing in the NIFL Premier Intermediate League. The club, founded in 1880, hails from Castledawson, near Magherafelt, County Londonderry, and plays its home matches at the Mill Meadow, which has an artificial "3G" surface. Club colours are royal blue and yellow. They are currently managed by Mervyn Pattison. The club won the inaugural Irish Cup in 1881.

NIFL Championship

The Northern Ireland Football League Championship (known as the Bluefin Sport 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.

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, though was marketed as the IFA Championship. In 2009, it was extended to two divisions: Championship 1 and Championship 2 with promotion and relegation between the two. In 2013, the Championship and IFA Premiership were replaced by a single Northern Ireland Football League, independent of the Irish Football Association (IFA).

Under reforms agreed by the NIFL clubs in 2014, from 2016–17, Championship 1 acquired senior status, continuing as the NIFL Championship, while Championship 2 continued as the Premier Intermediate League, retaining its intermediate status.

Northern Ireland national football team

The Northern Ireland national football team represents Northern Ireland in international association football. From 1882 to 1920, all of Ireland was represented by a single side, the Ireland national football team, organised by the Irish Football Association (IFA). In 1921, the jurisdiction of the IFA was reduced to Northern Ireland following the secession of clubs in the soon-to-be Irish Free State, although its team remained the national team for all of Ireland until 1950, and used the name Ireland until the 1970s. The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) organises the separate Republic of Ireland national football team.

Although part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland has always had a representative side that plays in major professional tournaments – whether alongside the rest of Ireland pre-1922 or as its own entity – though not in the Olympic Games, as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has always recognised United Kingdom representative sides.

Northern Ireland has competed in three FIFA World Cups, reaching the quarter-final stage in the 1958 and 1982 tournaments. At UEFA Euro 2016, the team made its first appearance at the European tournament and reached the second round.

Northern Ireland national under-16 football team

The Northern Ireland national under-16 schools football team (also known as Northern Ireland schoolboys, under-16s or U16) represents Northern Ireland in association football at under-16 level. It is controlled by the Northern Ireland Schools Football Association (NISFA) which is affiliated to the Irish Football Association. The main competition competed for by the team is the Victory Shield which has been competed for since 1925 by the same four teams (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales). The Northern Ireland under-16 side also competes regularly in other minor tournaments and in friendlies. The team had previously been fielded at under-15 level and games are still sometimes arranged at this age group level with the agreement of the opposition association.

Northern Ireland national under-17 football team

The Northern Ireland national under-17 football team (also known as Northern Ireland under-17, under-17s or U17) represents Northern Ireland in association football at under-17 level. It is controlled by the Irish Football Association. The team first competed as Northern Ireland under-16 before evolving into the current under-17 side when UEFA realigned their youth tournaments in 2001. They have qualified for the finals of the UEFA European Under-16 Championships four times (1987, 1990, 1992, 1993 and 1997) and for the UEFA European Under-17 Football Championship once (2004). In addition to the UEFA Championships, the team also plays regular friendlies and in minor tournaments from similar age-group teams from throughout the world.

Northern Ireland national under-18 schoolboys football team

The Northern Ireland national under-18 schools football team (also known as Northern Ireland U18 schoolboys) represents Northern Ireland in association football at under-18 level. It is controlled by the Northern Ireland Schools Football Association (NISFA) which is affiliated to the Irish Football Association. The main competition competed for by the team is the Centenary Shield (founded 1973) which they won on the first occasion that they entered in 1996. The Northern Ireland under-18 schoolboys side also competes regularly in other minor tournaments and in friendlies.

Northern Ireland national under-19 football team

The Northern Ireland national under-19 football team (also known as Northern Ireland under-19, under-19s or U19) represents Northern Ireland in association football at under-19 level. It is controlled by the Irish Football Association and began under the name of Ireland Youth when the Home Nations first held a round robin of friendly matches in 1948. The same year they entered the first International Youth Tournament, now the UEFA European Under-19 Football Championship. Their best performance was in 1963 when they finished as runner-up. The team evolved into the Northern Ireland under-18 team then the current under-19 team. As well as the UEFA Under-19 Championships the team also enters the annual Milk Cup (currently as an under-20 side). In addition, the team plays regular friendlies, sometimes as an under-20 or under-18 team by agreement of the opposing association.

Northern Ireland women's national under-19 football team

The Northern Ireland women's national under-19 football team represents the female under-19s of Northern Ireland in the UEFA Women's Under-19 Championship, and is controlled by the Irish Football Association.

Oldpark F.C.

Oldpark Football Club is a former Irish football club from north Belfast. It was founded in 1880 by members of the Oldpark Cricket Club. It was subsequently a founding member of the Irish Football Association in 1880 and the Irish Football League in 1890, but retained membership of the latter only for two seasons. The club reached the final of the County Antrim Shield in 1890-91 but lost. The club folded after the 1891-92 season.

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