Belfast Telegraph

All-island union is only about leagues, not the national sides, insists Lucid

 

On target: Colin Coates scores in the 2012 Setanta Cup final against Derry City
On target: Colin Coates scores in the 2012 Setanta Cup final against Derry City

By Steven Beacom

Kieran Lucid wants tomorrow's meeting involving Irish League clubs and their League of Ireland counterparts to be the first of many on the way to his dream of forming an All-Island League.

The tech millionaire from Kerry, supported by respected football figures such as former Republic of Ireland boss Brian Kerr and ex-English FA general secretary Alex Horne, has put a great deal of work into the venture.

Tomorrow, though, comes the hard sell, with current Irish Premiership clubs and those from the Championship who've had top-flight status in the last five years, along with the League of Ireland's 20 sides, invited to a special get together in Dundalk.

They will hear Lucid and his team speak about their vision and a new league structure starting in 2021, which would have 34 teams in three divisions comprising 14, 10 and 10 teams respectively. Also on the agenda will be prize money, television revenue, sponsorship deals, retaining European places, refereeing and disciplinary procedures.

Lucid said: "There will be a few presentations from me and others, and a question and answer session. As well as the clubs there will be an external party, like a football consultancy.

"We are hoping this will be the first of periodic meetings. I don't think there will be any big decisions made on Thursday. We are kicking off a process."

There have been estimates the annual revenue for a new All-Island League could be £8.5m, with clubs earning far more from a prize pot, television and sponsorship than is currently on offer.

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Lucid is confident a subscription television company is ready to invest big with an estimated £1.4m per year package.

"We don't have exact figures on what each league receives from current TV deals but it's quite low, and we are trying to show clubs that can be dramatically increased," stated Lucid.

"The TV company have verbally suggested the ballpark figure and have said they'll be ready.

"We don't have the authority or mandate to agree a deal. We are an independent advocacy group. It has to be the clubs.

"I'm hoping that the clubs on both sides of the border see this is the real deal and how serious the discussions are that we are having from a commercial and broadcast perspective."

Regarding the governing bodies north and south, the Irish FA and FAI, plus the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL), who presently run the league here, Lucid has spoken to them all and states emphatically the union is about the leagues and not Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland national teams.

"The FAI will be driven by the wishes of clubs. The IFA haven't said anything publicly. They will remain quiet but will want to ensure their independence is protected," said Lucid.

"That would be one of their concerns, and the second would be where the money is coming from and if there are any risks of northern clubs losing money.

"NIFL is a thin veneer over the clubs, it is the clubs really and I've been very upfront with NIFL about our plans. Ultimately, the clubs will decide."

Lucid added: "In terms of order, first the clubs have to decide what they want, second they go to their Associations and say this is what they want and then the Associations would go to Uefa with a clear, detailed proposal. Uefa are reactive. They would react to a formal proposal and that's what we are working to.

"We will try to encourage the clubs to take the radical step of combining the leagues while maintaining the independence of the cups and the national Associations and the national sides."

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