Belfast Telegraph

All-Ireland league would get £1m TV deal, insists Lucid

Silver lining: Crusaders’ Matthew Snoddy lifts the Setanta Sports Cup in 2012
Silver lining: Crusaders’ Matthew Snoddy lifts the Setanta Sports Cup in 2012

By Steven Beacom

A television company would be willing to invest over £1m to screen a proposed new all-island league, according to one of the men behind the project.

Kerry entrepreneur Kieran Lucid has revealed that he has held talks with broadcasters about the plan and insists an offer has been made for the TV rights.

The all-island league working group has also had discussions with potential sponsors and clubs on both sides of the border, and yesterday the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) confirmed they had spoken to Lucid, while the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) want to meet the people behind the concept.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Lucid, who heads the working group which includes former Republic of Ireland boss Brian Kerr and ex-Glentoran chairman Stafford Reynolds, said that he "would like to start in May 2020-2021" with 34 clubs competing in three divisions.

While that may be asking too much, it's evident that businessman Lucid, heavily involved in the Boyne Cup tournament initiative which brings together Under-12 teams from around Ireland, has got clubs thinking.

Linfield chairman Roy McGivern stated: "I am aware of this (proposal) and it's an interesting development but has many obstacles to overcome."

In football, money talks.

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Lucid said: "We are in discussions with broadcasters and already have an offer on the table from a broadcaster. It is a seven-figure sum, as in over €1m, and it is over £1m as well. The reception from the broadcasters to this all-island dimension has been remarkably positive.

"This idea started back in 2017 so it has been a long process. I've met clubs multiple times and the warmth to the idea has grown over time. Initially there was more warmth in the north than the south but that is changing now. The answer from the clubs tends to be if the money is there and our members are behind the idea we will consider it."

An all-Ireland league would inevitably throw up the question of an all-Ireland international team. Lucid's response: "It will have no impact on the two national teams. The all-island element would come in the league and the League Cup and have no effect on the Irish Cup which is run by the IFA. Our group has no design on the national teams.

"This is about raising standards in football plus bringing proper sponsorship and broadcasting revenue on board.

"The league company we would set up would be a separate company owned 100% by the clubs and we would have 34 clubs in that company.

"We would have a 14-team Premiership and a 20-team Championship, divided into two leagues of north and south which is a line drawn by the league as opposed to the border, with promotion and relegation."

Lucid added that his group intend to talk to Uefa in a bid to ensure Irish clubs don't lose places in Europe if the idea comes to fruition, though there is a suggestion that, such would be the prize money, even clubs finishing near the bottom of the top division could earn as much as they would for qualifying for Europe.

A NIFL statement read: "The NI Football League administration recently met with the architects of this proposal to keep informed of the proposal rather than receive information third hand from clubs who have held discussions with the group.

"The NI Football League have held no formal discussion on the matter. If and until a proposal is provided and given consideration by the NI Football League and club representatives, there will be no further comment."

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