Can Irish Teams Play in the Premier League?

The English Premier League is extremely popular, and many teams would eagerly trade their current league in a heartbeat for the opportunity to play in it. With Swansea and Cardiff playing in the English Premier League despite being Welsh clubs, some might ask if Irish teams can play in the Premier League. Well, read on and find out.

Do any Irish teams play in England?

No Irish football club plays in England or is involved in any other English leagues. Irish teams compete in the Irish League Premier Division and the lower Irish First Division.  

Ireland has a potent and renowned football culture, with The Irish Football League established in 1880 and the Republic of Ireland Football Association in 1921. Both organisations have always been committed to running their own leagues.

In contrast, Swansea, Cardiff City, Newport County, Wrexham, and Merthyr Town are Welsh teams playing in various English leagues, despite Wales having its own Premier League, also known as Cymru Premier.

This was permitted because when Swansea City and Cardiff City were first formed (in 1912 and 1899, respectively), no professional Welsh football league existed. 

The absence of a Welsh league meant their only option was to join the English Football League, and both have been playing there ever since. Irish clubs don’t have this issue, with organized soccer in Ireland being available as early as 1878

Can Irish teams play in the Premier League?

Currently, Irish teams do not have the opportunity to play in the Premier League.

The English football league system is structured in a way that reserves the highest levels exclusively for English and Welsh clubs. This restriction is primarily due to the difference in football associations and the separate development of the sport in each country.

The Premier League is the top tier of the English football league system, and it is only open to teams that are members of the English Football Association (FA). 

In contrast, Irish clubs play in the League of Ireland, a completely different league organized and governed by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI).

Moreover, allowing Irish clubs to play in the Premier League would necessitate significantly restructuring the English football league system. 

This process would involve negotiations, agreements, and discussions among various football associations, governing bodies, and stakeholders.

Irish clubs will also need to build a squad capable of competing at a very high professional level, establish appropriate infrastructure, and potentially undergo a restructure to align with the regulations and standards of the English leagues. 

The financial aspects associated with participating in the Premier League will be very demanding. Irish clubs would need to compete with well-established English teams with larger fan bases, higher revenues, and more significant financial resources. 

Also, Ireland is geographically separate from England, unlike Wales, which shares a land border.  This will result in increased travel distances for fixtures. This factor could pose logistical challenges, including higher costs, increased player fatigue, and potential scheduling conflicts.

These challenges make the pathway for Irish teams to play in the English Premier League a complex and demanding process.

Can Irish teams play in the FA Cup?

Irish teams are not eligible to participate in the FA Cup because they have their football league system. 

The FA Cup is primarily limited to clubs registered with the Football Association (FA) of England, including teams from the English football league system and affiliated competitions.

Irish clubs compete in the FAI Cup instead of the FA Cup because they are registered and governed by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI).

Although Irish teams have previously competed in the FA Cup, with five clubs from Northern Ireland having entered the competition between 1887 and 1890.

Also, the Irish FAI Cup winner qualifies for the UEFA Europa Conference League, while the winner of the English FA Cup qualifies for the UEFA Europa League. This highlights the gulf in strength between the two countries footballing prestige.

Have Irish teams played against Premier League teams?

While Irish teams do not currently participate in the Premier League or any of the lower English Leagues, there have been instances where they have faced off against Premier League sides.

Most of these matches occurred in European tournaments, including past events like the European Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup and the current Europa League and UEFA club competition qualifying rounds.

Here are some of the notable matches:

Crusaders v Liverpool (European Cup, 1976)

On September 28, 1976, Crusaders played against Liverpool in the European Cup. The match took place at Seaview Stadium in Belfast.

Liverpool won the match 5-0 with the goals scored by Keegan (34’), McAteer (60’), McDermott (84’), Heighway (86’), and Johnson (89’)

This was the second leg of the first round of the 1976/77 European Cup, with Liverpool having already won the first leg 2-0 at Anfield.

Terry McDermott scored his first goal and played his first European match during this game. Liverpool went on to win the first of six European Cups that year, beating Borussia Monchengladbach in the final.

Here’s a clip of the goals:

Linfield v Manchester City (European Cup Winners’ Cup, 1970)

On September 23, 1970, Linfield FC played against Manchester City in the UEFA Cup Winners Cup. 

This was the second leg of the first round of the competition in the 1970/71 season. Manchester City had won the first leg 1-0 at Maine Road, with Colin Bell scoring the winner.

Linfield played very well, winning 2-1 on the night. However, despite the fantastic performance, Manchester City squeezed through on away goals, with only a Franny Lee penalty ensuring their victory. 

The match took place at Windsor Park in Belfast, with an attendance of 24,000. This match was part of Manchester City’s route to the 1970 European Cup Winners’ Cup final, where they faced Górnik Zabrze of Poland, and Manchester City won the final 2-1.

Wolves v Crusaders (2019-2020 Europa League second qualifying round)

On July 25, 2019, Wolverhampton Wanderers played against Crusaders in the second qualifying round of the Europa League

The match occurred at Molineux Stadium in Wolverhampton, England, and Wolves won 2-0. with goals from Diogo Jota and Ruben Vinagre.

Wolves dominated the game with 30 shots, while Crusaders set up camp with two banks of five, forcing Wolves into long-range efforts. 

Jota eventually broke Crusaders’ resistance with a beautiful strike, swiveling to power home Traore’s cross on the half-volley.

Vinagre’s goal was scored in injury time, giving Wolves a two-goal lead at the halfway point of their Europa League second-round qualifier against Crusaders.

It was the first time in 39 years Wolves had played in any European competition. They had last played in Europe when they beat PSV Eindhoven 1-0 in October 1980 


Irish teams currently cannot play in the English Premier League. The structure of the league system reserves it for English and Welsh clubs. 

Irish teams joining the Premier League would require significant restructuring, negotiations, and agreements, which is highly unlikely.

While Irish teams currently do not participate in the Premier League, their involvement in European competitions has provided opportunities to face Premier League opposition.

Similarly, you can find out whether Scottish or Welsh teams can play in the Premier League.

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