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League of Ireland clubs write to FAI in bid to explore all-island league plans

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Derry City are amongst the League of Ireland clubs to write to the FAI regarding the plans for an all-island league.

Derry City are amongst the League of Ireland clubs to write to the FAI regarding the plans for an all-island league.

�INPHO/Lorcan Doherty

Derry City are amongst the League of Ireland clubs to write to the FAI regarding the plans for an all-island league.

League of Ireland Premier Division clubs have written to the FAI to ask them to send the proposal for the All-Island League to UEFA for consideration.

They are following the lead of counterparts in Northern Ireland who sent a similar letter to their governing body, the IFA, to request that they got in touch with European football authorities.

The significance of their actions was debated north of the border given that the IFA have resisted attempts to bring the overall idea to fruition.

Linfield chairman Roy McGivern indicated it should be interpreted as a willingness to keep options open and see what is viable rather than a demand for action.

Only 10 of their 12 top flight teams put their name to the missive with Cliftonville and Dungannon opting against doing so.

But all ten southern Premier sides have asked that the FAI send on their correspondence to Switzerland.

UEFA ratification will be required if the plans driven by Kerry businessman Kieran Lucid are ever to get off the ground.

The letter addressed to interim FAI CEO Gary Owens asks Abbotstown chiefs to 'work constructively with the clubs, the IFA and UEFA' on examining the plausibility of this project.

After protracted discussions around formats and the airing of concerns around the impact on lucrative European places, Dutch experts Hypercube took the feedback of clubs in devising a format that won approval from the majority.

"Should UEFA support the move, then once commercial discussions have taken place and we have full financial figures, the clubs can make final decisions about the format," says the letter, seen by independent.ie

"The continuing power of the FA Premier League and the devastating consequences of the Coivd-19 crisis make the wellbeing of our national league very uncertain.

"Still, the underlying continuing popularity of football on the island and the sustained emergence of talented young players and coaches mean the game here continues to be rich in raw materials, something that's been confirmed by Hypercube's study.

"To transform the domestic club game requires a combination of addressing the harsh economic truths and some ambitious thinking and investment."

The format agreed via Hybercube - the details of which emerged in April - would involve a split season with the League of Ireland and Irish League proceeding as normal for the first half of the campaign.

At an agreed cut off point, the top eight League of Ireland sides and top six Irish League teams would go into the cross border league that leads to a knockout series which results in a victor being crowned King of the Island.

Points picked up during the league section of the all-island fare would also be added to the domestic tally with a view to deciding the finishing places that determine European spots.

Teams who miss the cut would also enter into new competitions for the second half of the season with promotion and relegation issues at stake.

The intention is to preserve as many of the eight European places currently available for teams on this island as possible.

But that will all be determined by UEFA's formal view on the experimental concept.

Clubs on both sides of the border feel they can only properly seek commercial and government support if they have certainty around UEFA's stance.

That would allow them to make an informed decision on whether to proceed with the plans.

It will be a harder sell in Irish League circles where opposition lingers at official level and senior figures at Dungannon and Cliftonville have made their objections clear either publicly or privately.

However, leading southern forces are closer to the same page in terms of wanting to pursue this avenue, especially as the recent return to play saga and FAI's decision to look internally for a League of Ireland Director has stirred tension in the ranks.

Independent.ie