Linfield are five points clear in the Irish Premiership as they pursue a fourth league title in five years

Linfield: Irish Premiership champions to adopt full-time model as part of five-year plan

Irish Premiership champions Linfield have confirmed plans to adopt a full-time model as part of the club’s five-year strategic plan.

The Blues say they aim to maintain their position “at the pinnacle of Irish football” and improve in European competition.

Linfield will also look to grow the club’s fanbase and hope to improve their “financial sustainability”.

The unveiling of Linfield’s plan comes on the club’s 135th anniversary.

Broken up into three strategic objectives, Linfield say they will “seek to professionalise all aspects of the club” in order to continue their recent on-field success.

This includes improvements in player preparation, conditioning and tactical awareness through embracing “modern, scientific approaches”.

Linfield want to “optimise preparations for European competition” by “supporting a change in seasonality for the domestic game”.

The Irish Premiership leaders have outlined their commitment to “building and maintaining” a successful youth academy, with a clear pathway to the first-team squad which, the club feel, should contain at least three academy graduates.

Charlie Allen and Dale Taylor are two of Linfield’s academy graduates to have recently secured moves to England, joining Leeds United and Nottingham Forest respectively last summer.

A new training facility, the Belvoir Complex, will add to the club’s training and playing facilities at Windsor Park and Midgley Park.

The Blues have won the Gibson Cup in three out of the last four seasons and have set a target of winning either the league title or Irish Cup – which they last won in 2017 – every season.

One more Irish League triumph would bring them level with Rangers for domestic league titles with the Glasgow club having secured their 55th Scottish Premiership crown earlier this month.

In addition, the Blues hope to see Linfield Ladies secure a major trophy every season having relinquished their Women’s Irish Premiership crown to Glentoran last season after four successive triumphs between 2016 and 2019.

The Belfast club state their goal of progressing “beyond the entry round” in European competition at least every other season. In 2019, David Healy’s side reached the Europa League play-offs, where they lost on away goals to Azerbaijani side Qarabag.

Linfield's second objective is to grow its fanbase and they aim to achieve this by ensuring that "supporters' inputs and views are reflected in our decision making", setting a target of increasing the number of season ticket holders and upping the average home attendance by 5% per season.

Those targets are also a part of the club’s drive for improved financial sustainability, which incorporates a planned increase of 5% in commercial income revenues.

“It is fitting that we launch this ambitious plan during the club’s 135th anniversary,” said Blues chairman Roy McGivern.

“Linfield Football Club has always led the way in development of football in this country and I believe the headline of ‘Never Standing Still’ captures the essence of what this club is about.

“The plan is ambitious and challenging but that is the mindset that we need to embrace as we strive to maintain our position at the pinnacle of local football.”

Linfield manager Healy added: “Linfield’s fans are the best in the world, and so its important that we share with them where we want to take the club to next and what that will look like for the next number of years.

“I would encourage our members and fans, far and wide, to take time to take a look at the strategy and feed back to the club.”

Linfield say they will review progress on a quarterly basis with a more detailed review to take place each year.

Original article 15.03.21 on BBC Sport website.

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