Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

All-Island cup competition a potential solution after Irish FA reject league proposal

An All-Island cup competition, much like the defunct Setanta Cup, could provide the solution after the Irish FA refused to sanction a 32 county league.
An All-Island cup competition, much like the defunct Setanta Cup, could provide the solution after the Irish FA refused to sanction a 32 county league.

By Stephen Looney

Irish League clubs will be offered the chance to play in a revamped Setanta Cup-type competition after the Irish FA gave an All-Island League the red card.

Ambitious businessman Kieran Lucid saw his proposals for a new cross-border league kicked into touch by IFA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson last Thursday.

But the entrepreneur from Kerry insists there are other options for clubs in Northern Ireland and the Republic, including a lucrative cross-border cup competition.

"The ball is in the court of the northern clubs", Lucid told Sunday Life Sport. "The options remain on the table for consideration."

Sunday Life Sport can reveal that a new league comprising teams from Northern Ireland and the Republic was one of three options proposed to clubs at a meeting in Dundalk 10 days ago.

Option 1 - an 'All Island League' comprising 14 teams from both jurisdictions.

Option 2 - a '4th Tournament', a cup competition along the lines of the old Setanta Cup.

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Option 3 - a 'Split season', whereby clubs play in the own leagues prior to a mid-season split to join either a first tier or a second-tier all-island division.

All three options were discussed at a meeting of clubs from both jurisdictions in a Dundalk hotel. Thirty of 36 invited clubs took part in discussions.

Documents viewed by Sunday Life Sport show that the business consortium has addressed concerns about finance, supporter response and the thorny issue of access to UEFA competitions.

Option One, known as the Danish model based on the Danish Superliga, is deemed the most lucrative option, but flags up the 'challenge to assuage fans' as 'high', while the '4th Tournament' option is deemed the least lucrative but the easiest to deliver because of its forerunner, the Setanta Cup.

"We met clubs in Dundalk and asked them to embark on the process of consultation on some form of competition involving clubs from both jurisdictions", Lucid told Sunday Life Sport.

"There were a number of options discussed, the clubs seemed happy with that and they were not invited to say yes or no to the All Island League proposals.

"All options remain on the table and the ball is in the court of the northern clubs now."

On the issue of finance, Lucid said: "We made it clear to the clubs that two broadcasters are interested, with one ready to do a deal right now in verbal discussions we have had.

"Headline sponsors are also interested, but it's hard for specific deals to be done at this stage without knowing whether a TV deal will be a pay TV deal or have a free-to-air aspect. It makes sense to secure a TV deal first."

The Irish FA statement revealed it would not sanction 'its member clubs to take part in an all-island (All-Ireland) Football League as proposed by Irish businessman Kieran Lucid'. However, the Nelson statement went on to leave the door open to an all-island cup competition.

It read: "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'".

The Setanta Sports Cup was inaugurated in 2005 with a Linfield win over favourites Shelbourne and finished in 2014. Crusaders are the only other Irish League team to have won it, beating Derry City in 2012.

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