FOOTBALL officials will change the structure of the Setanta Sports Cup for the third time in five years and turn it into a knockout competition in a bid to save it from going out of existence.
The cross-border competition was launched in Belfast yesterday, even though a number of games in the current season have already been played, but there was little celebration as clubs on both sides of the border are unhappy with the current format, which sees action resume next week after a four-month break, during which a batch of players have moved clubs.
The Setanta Cup kicked off last year way back in August and Cork City, Derry City, Sligo Rovers, St Pats and Bohemians have all played games.
But because the tournament is split between the summer season played in the League of Ireland and the Irish League's winter format, confusion reigns.
As an example, Bohs are due to play Coleraine next week, but five of the current Bohs squad are cup tied, having already played for other clubs, even though one of those clubs (Derry City) have since been kicked out of the competition.
"They have acknowledged that they are going to have to change the format of the competition," said Linfield chairman Jim Kerr.
"It's been an absolute disaster this year and I don't know how they are going to conjure something up.
"When two associations operate in different seasons, it's never going to be fair, as one or the other will suffer because of the timing.
"Perhaps a straightforward home and away knockout competition is the answer. I know the sponsors want more games but our league's part-time players are playing too much football."
Milo Corcoran, chairman of the organising committee, said: "There is no point in letting it drift along. We agree that a knockout could be the answer."