NI Football League surprised at FAI's champions match announcement

setanta Cup
Teams from the two leagues met in the Setanta Cup which ended in 2014

The NI Football League say they are surprised at the announcement of a 'champions match' between the League of Ireland champions and the Irish Premiership winners.

On Tuesday the FAI announced that a new two-legged fixture would take place later this year.

"We were aware that initial discussions had taken place between the Irish FA and FAI," said a NIFL statement.

"But did not expect any formal announcements at this stage."

League of Ireland director Fran Gavin announced details of the new match at the season launch in Dublin, stating that the games would be held in November.

"Our colleagues up in the north are very happy with the dates," he said.

"It is significant prize money which we will announce in the next few weeks."

However when asked for a comment on the announcement, NIFL suggested that their southern counterparts were premature in their statement.

"The NI Football League note today's announcement at the SSE Airticity League Launch regarding the potential formation of a new competition between the winners of the of the Danske Bank Premiership and SSE Airticity League," a NIFL spokesperson said.

"We look forward to consultation and receiving further detail regarding this opportunity, which we will consider with our member clubs."

The Irish FA stated that discussions over the new game had been ongoing for a number of months, but added that that nothing had been confirmed.

Teams from both leagues featured in the All-Ireland Setanta Cup, a tournament which ended in 2014 with clubs voicing concerns over fixture scheduling.

Champions Dundalk begin their title defence against Sligo Rovers at Oriel Park on Friday.

Linfield lead the Irish Premiership by six points, although second-placed Ballymena United have a game in hand.