Football/Soccer

Negative IFA response to All-Island League concept was expected - Brian Kerr

Virgin Media Sport analyst Brian Kerr at Virgin Media Television's Festival of Football launch that starts this week with 26 games in both the Uefa Champions League and Europa League, played across 19 days, all live on Virgin Media Television channels. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Andy Watters

THE All-Island League lobbyists were not deterred by an initial negative response from the IFA and now, with 20 out of 22 clubs north and south of the border backing their proposals, Brian Kerr is confident the league will become a reality.

Cliftonville and Dungannon Swifts are the only clubs not to support the concept and Belfast-born, Dublin-raised former Republic of Ireland manager Kerr, who has been involved in the project since its inception, says early resistance to the innovative move was expected.

“There was never despondency about the IFA's statements,” he said.

“We had a couple of meetings where I didn't get a great vibe of: 'We'd really like this to happen'. We've always felt that the clubs were very supportive and that was the most important thing and the process has been going on a good while now very steadily.

“Massive work has been done in the background with massive detail on how it might work.

“Bringing HyperCube (Dutch company which specialises in “optimum functioning of the circle of success for sporting organizations”) on board was a really good move.”

Kerr had hoped to see an “out-and-out” league competition to replace the Irish League and League of Ireland but that has been watered down to a hybrid version in which both have been retained. The leagues will be separate for two rounds of games and after them clubs will then enter a combined league for the last third.

Both Associations will retain their existing cup competitions and rights to Uefa places and the All-Island will not interfere with the international teams.

“It's a complicated setup,” Kerr admitted.

“What has come out is a recommendation as to what would work: option four of the six that were put up. It's a compromise between what I would like to see happen and a lot of people might like to see happen which would be an out-and-out ‘let's go for it’ all-island league with the best teams playing in it.

“In terms of some of the difficulties around the Uefa places and the retention of the competitions that seem to be quite precious to some clubs and some people it's a magnificent compromise and option.

“The fact that 20 of the 22 clubs have come out strongly to take the action of signing a letter to the two associations is really quite amazing. We saw how long it took to get an agreement on what sort of a league we would have here so to end up with 20 out of 2 agreeing on something very radical or supporting it is quite hopeful. Let's see how it develops from there. It's in the hands of the two associations and Uefa now to make the next moves and see where it goes.”

Deputy CEO Niall Quinn will make the FAI’s position on the All-Island League clear at a press conference today. Kerr said the timeframe for the new league would depend on both Associations on the island signing off on the idea and getting the green light from Uefa.

 

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Football/Soccer