Football/Soccer

Niall Quinn: Talks with IFA over all-island league 'going the right way'

Niall Quinn, interim deputy CEO of the FAI, said there had been 'really positive' talks with the IFA about a possible all-island league. Picture by PA
Neil Loughran

FORMER Republic of Ireland striker Niall Quinn has sounded an optimistic note about a possible all-island league, saying talks with the Irish Football Association (IFA) are “going the right way”.

Last October the IFA rebuffed initial proposals for an all-Island league, which had been put forward by Kerry entrepreneur Kieran Lucid with the involvement of Dutch analytics company Hypercube.

That position was reaffirmed in May amid reports the IFA and FAI had set up a steering group to investigate the viability of a cross-border competition.

But Quinn, who has been serving as interim deputy chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) since January, revealed yesterday that regular discussions between the two associations had taken place about a potential cross-border competition.

“First of all we have to make sure we take the IFA and what they think into account and not just run away with ourselves,” he said.

“But we have met regularly and discussed a potential cross-border competition and it is going in the right way. Before Gary [Owens, interim FAI chief executive] and I came into here, separately if we were asked, we were excited, the same as most people are, with Kieran Lucid and the plan. Then when we saw what Hypercube had done, we felt this was going the right way.

“But there is a lot of work to be done. Who knows how and where all that confidence in it performing will come. But we’d have to take into concern how our friends in the IFA feel about all of this and slowly but surely edge towards what I certainly would hope is a cross-border competition of a sort. But it’s early days yet.

“When you are in discussions, it is always a good thing. We meet regularly with our counterparts in the IFA and they are really positive meetings.”

Last month all 10 clubs in the League of Ireland Premier Division wrote to the FAI to request that a proposal for an all-island league be submitted to Uefa for consideration, with Cliftonville and Dungannon Swifts the only Irish Premiership clubs not to sign a similar letter to the IFA.

Lucid’s proposal is essentially for both leagues to play their own competitions over two full rounds before merging to compete for an all-island crown. Both leagues would also retain their own domestic cup competitions as well as their money-spinning European places.

“We’re working with the IFA and we’ve always had I suppose support for Kieran Lucid’s theory in where we’re going,” added Owens, speaking at the FAI’s Abbotstown headquarters ahead of tomorrow’s special national council meeting.

“There is a bit of work to be done in terms of talking to the key stakeholders. We definitely feel we need a different type of competition structure, we have a steering group within in the Republic looking at that anyway and then we’ve a separate group looking at the potential for an all-island league, whatever that might look like.

“We’ve a good relationship with the IFA, it is sensitive. Discussions are very positive. I think you just have to be careful that we don’t try to jump too far, too quickly.

“Proper engagement, respect everybody’s side and their views and engage Uefa. You don’t want to end up losing anything we do come up with. There are a lot of delicate discussions to take place.”

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Football/Soccer