Belfast Telegraph

Irish FA refuses to sanction All-Island League proposals led by Kieran Lucid

Irish FA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson.
Irish FA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Irish Football Association Chief Executive Patrick Nelson has confirmed that Northern Ireland football's governing body will not sanction any of its member clubs to take part in the proposed new All-Island League.

Businessman Kieran Lucid is behind the ambitious plans that aim to bring the Irish League and League of Ireland together in a historic new structure.

The Kerry entrepreneur and his team had put plans in place to form a 14-team top tier and two 10-team regionalised leagues, with the dream to start in 2021.

Chief amongst the Irish FA's concerns is what they claim to be 'highly speculative' potential income figures, with Lucid having last week told the Belfast Telegraph that an offer worth over £1m is already on the table from a broadcaster.

A meeting was held with clubs from both sides of the border last Thursday in Dundalk, with Glentoran and Linfield both indicating they had been encouraged by the initial talks.

However, the Irish FA's announcement is the first major blow to the prospals.

The organisation is also worried over the potential loss of places in European competition and has confirmed that it will not sanction any competition coming out of the current plans.

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It is understood that should Irish League clubs go against the IFA's wishes and compete in the competition, UEFA places would not be available to that club via the All-Island League and other sanctions may be applied, such as a ban from Irish FA competitions.

Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson's statement in full

"The Irish Football Association has confirmed that it will not sanction any of its member clubs to take part in an all-island (All-Ireland) Football League as proposed by Irish businessman Kieran Lucid.

"Having listened to the proposals from Mr Lucid and his team, we believe the best interests of our member clubs and football in Northern Ireland are better served by remaining with the club-led model established in 2013 via the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL)

"NIFL has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 2013 and continues to attract increased sponsorship and funding.

"The present distribution model, unanimously agreed by all clubs, ensures all 12 teams in the Danske Bank Premiership benefit from the prize fund.

"This has created a balanced league which has seen a substantial increase in attendances, awareness and television coverage. The potential income figures quoted in Mr Lucid’s proposals are highly speculative and lack specificity or guarantees.

"UEFA competition places, prize monies and youth solidarity funding are important to our clubs and we do not wish to put these in question.

"We greatly value our association and club links with the Football Association of Ireland and are happy to both take part in, and enhance, cross-border cup competitions at all levels.

"We already have the new Unite the Union Champions’ Cup, played for between the champions of the Irish League and League of Ireland, the Presidents’ Cup for Junior sides in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and a proposed new intermediate level competition."

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