IFA refuse to sanction all-island league but work will continue says defiant Kieran Lucid

The IFA have barred their clubs from entering a proposed all-island league
Andy Watters

KIERAN Lucid, the driving force behind the proposed all-Ireland football league, says “work will continue” despite the Irish Football Association's decision not to sanction his plans.

Lucid's vision for a two-tier all-island competition was rejected by the IFA who claim it would not be in “the best interests of clubs in Northern Ireland” and described the potential income figures to fund it as “highly speculative”.

Despite the considerable setback, Kerry businessman Lucid says he is determined to push ahead with the project he had hoped to launch in 2021.

“The project we are embarked on is to support and improve the lot of professional football clubs on the island of Ireland,” he said.

“We remain focused on that objective. A considerable amount of work has been done to date; clubs are being regularly updated and consulted with as we make progress. The work will continue.”

Without IFA backing the success of the all-Ireland project now seems highly unlikely. Even if the league were to be formed, any IFA club that breaks ranks to join it would be subject to sanctions.

“Patrick Nelson (IFA chief executive) and Sean Murphy (chief operations officer) met with Kieran Lucid and looked into it and they just don't believe that this is in the best interests of clubs in Northern Ireland,” explained IFA spokesman Nigel Tilson.

“In purely financial terms, it is hugely speculative. It contains significant unsupported investment assumptions and the forecasted increases in the amount of money that will be generated just don't stack up.

“They contain significant and unsupported investment assumptions. He is talking about a 600 per cent increase in funding to what is currently provided in both leagues but there is nothing to stack up his figures against that.

“Even his proposed TV deal - there is only a verbal indication of broadcast rights worth around E1.25M a year.”

Tilson also cast doubt over Lucid's assertion that Uefa could provide as many as eight places in European competitions for clubs competing in the All-Ireland league.

“No country gets eight places,” he said.

“The top four countries at the moment get seven places so there are an awful lot of assumptions being made here and he also assumes a degree of government support to underwrite the whole thing in its formative years. But there is no functioning government here and the FAI funding has recently been frozen by the Dublin government.”

On October 24, 30 of 36 clubs from north and south of the border attended an exploratory meeting at Dundalk FC to discuss the pros and cons of the all-island competition. After that meeting, former Republic of Ireland manager Brian Kerr described the concept as “a no-brainer” if the proper funding was put in place.

He predicted that a merger of the Northern Ireland Football League and the Republic's Eircom League would lead to better quality football, bigger crowds, better facilities, greater financial rewards and more success in Europe competitions. However, the IFA are not prepared to take a leap of faith unless they are satisfied that detailed financial foundations had been put in place.

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