All-Island league proposal dealt massive blow as IFA refuse to allow Irish league clubs to take part

A statement from the Association’s CEO says clubs are better-served remaining in Northern Ireland.

IFA CEO Patrick Nelson.
IFA CEO Patrick Nelson.
Image: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

KIERAN LUCID’S PROPOSALS for an all-island domestic league in Ireland have been dealt a shattering blow today as the Irish Football Association (IFA) say they will not sanction its clubs to take part in the competition. 

Any potential league needed the co-operation of clubs, both national associations and Uefa, and while the FAI are open to the idea and the response among clubs both sides of the border was broadly positive following a meeting in Dundalk last week, the IFA CEO Patrick Nelson today declared his association’s opposition to the plans. 

“The Irish Football Association has confirmed that it will not sanction any of its member clubs to take part in an all-island (All-Ireland) Football League as proposed by Irish businessman Kieran Lucid”, read a statement. 

“Having listened to the proposals from Mr Lucid and his team, we believe the best interests of our member clubs and football in Northern Ireland are better served by remaining with the club-led model established in 2013 via the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL).” 

The NIFL is independent of the IFA, in which 38 member clubs are each a shareholder. The league follows the rules and articles of the IFA, however, in a structure similar to that arranged between the English FA and the Premier League.

Continuing, Mr. Nelson compared the present distribution model in the Danske Bank Premiership (the top division in the NIFL) favourably to the revenue figures projected by Lucid’s group, which he says were “highly speculative.” 

“The present distribution model, unanimously agreed by all clubs, ensures all 12 teams in the Danske Bank Premiership benefit from the prize fund.

This has created a balanced league which has seen a substantial increase in attendances, awareness and television coverage. The potential income figures quoted in Mr Lucid’s proposals are highly speculative and lack specificity or guarantees.” 

The IFA acknowledged their present ties with the FAI, but said that they did not wish to jeapordise funding to clubs from Uefa. 

“Uefa competition places, prize monies and youth solidarity funding are important to our clubs and we do not wish to put these in question.

“We greatly value our association and club links with the Football Association of Ireland and are happy to both take part in, and enhance, cross-border cup competitions at all levels.

“We already have the new Unite the Union Champions’ Cup, played for between the champions of the Irish League and League of Ireland, the Presidents’ Cup for Junior sides in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and a proposed new intermediate level competition.”

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Kerry businessman Lucid is one of a group of eight people – which also includes former Republic of Ireland manager Brian Kerr  – who have been devising plans for a cross-border domestic league since 2017. 

Opinion on the proposals have varied among clubs in Northern Ireland.

While Cliftonville chairman Gerard Lawlor described the idea as a “non-runner”, Crusaders released a statement to say that the proposals “deserve thorough scrutiny and open, informed debate”, and that “is beholden on those who would seek to close down debate or administratively frustrate the proposals to come up with better alternatives. We all know the status quo wont wash.” 

Speaking to The42 ahead of that Dundalk meeting last week, Kieran Lucid acknowledged that the associations remained unconvinced by the proposals, and stressed it could only go forward if both “become involved and actively back it.” 

By that measure, today’s statement has dealt the concept a devastating blow. 

The group behind the all-island league proposals have been contacted for comment. 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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