Belfast Telegraph

Group behind all-Ireland league plan urges clubs to accept €10m 'greatest sponsorship opportunity ever' by autumn

Old foes: Fixtures like the Setanta Sports Cup clashes between Linfield and Derry City could become a regular feature in an all-island set-up
Old foes: Fixtures like the Setanta Sports Cup clashes between Linfield and Derry City could become a regular feature in an all-island set-up

By Daniel McDonnell

The group behind the creation of an all-island league have made it clear they want the all-clear to push ahead with the plan by the autumn.

Kieran Lucid says that very good reasons would be required to justify delaying the adoption and implementation of his proposal by another year or longer.

Tech entrepreneur Lucid and a working group that includes former Ireland boss Brian Kerr have been working behind the scenes for 18 months to sell their idea to clubs on both sides of the border.

Their vision is a new company that would merge the League of Ireland and Irish League and establish a new 14-team top flight with two 10-team regionalised leagues below it.

Lucid is using finance to sell the vision and overcome any political reservations, stating that a broadcaster has already indicated it would pay over €1m per year for the rights.

Other broadcasters and prospective sponsors have expressed interest, with Lucid aiming to generate revenues of around €10m per year - although there is no firm figure on the table at this point as they enter negotiations.

The idea would need UEFA approval and present complications with regard to European places, but Lucid feels that the European governing body should be an 'ally rather than an adversary' in the process.

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He is hoping to offset club concerns by presenting a model which shows that the bottom-placed Premiership team would receive more prize-money than the €240,000 that is currently available just for Europa League qualifiers.

Lucid is adamant that the time to adopt his detailed plan is now, repeating his belief that the new league should be good to go from May 2021. From 2022, it would be an April start with a New Year's Day finish.

In order for that timeline to be met, he would need the respective schedules for 2020 to be altered and that’s why quick responses are required.

He wants clubs to support the plan and then go to their respective associations and, from there, to UEFA which would be the final stage of negotiation.

“We are working towards an autumn go or no-go decision by the clubs,” said Lucid, who was asked by the Irish Independent if he would accept a request for more deliberation.

“I would ask why wait another year, they would have to justify the why. We have a window of opportunity with the FAI in a state of flux and the IFA (Northern Irish league) set to lose a European place. It is focusing the mind, they are all thinking of what needs to be done.

“Over the next few months, we will be hopefully growing the commercial offering with a view to clubs not being able to say no.

“I am biased, obviously, but this is the greatest commercial sponsorship opportunity ever. For a company to be able to say that they helped bring about an all-island league would engender a lot of goodwill.”

The support of Irish-American networks and peace and reconciliation funds are part of the project.

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