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Irish FA stands firm in rejection of latest All Island League proposal as Kieran Lucid's dream suffers another blow

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Linfield faced Dundalk in the inaugural Champions Cup in November and the Irish FA have opened the door to expanding that cross-border tournament rather than sanctioning Kieran Lucid's proposals.

Linfield faced Dundalk in the inaugural Champions Cup in November and the Irish FA have opened the door to expanding that cross-border tournament rather than sanctioning Kieran Lucid's proposals.

©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Linfield faced Dundalk in the inaugural Champions Cup in November and the Irish FA have opened the door to expanding that cross-border tournament rather than sanctioning Kieran Lucid's proposals.

Optimistic All Island League visionary Kieran Lucid knew he was flogging a dead horse.

The Kerry businessman had already run his new proposal for a knock-out style All Island competition past football chiefs at the Irish Football Association.

He did not receive the response he wished for.

But despite knowing the Irish FA would refuse to sanction clubs from the Danske Bank Premiership to take part in any new All Island League venture, Lucid and his team - who have invested a considerable amount of time, expertise and money into the initiative - ploughed ahead in releasing their new proposals to a wider audience and hoping to garner support in the court of public opinion.

Lucid, who has been working in conjunction with Dutch business innovation experts Hybercube, proposed the all-island Champions being crowned via a knockout competition.

This event would take place at the end of a split season where the League of Ireland and Irish League would retain independence by declaring their own Champions.

Derry City have been the latest League of Ireland Premier Division club to pick up the baton for Lucid, encouraging all parties, including clubs north and south as well as relevant associations, the FAI and IFA, to give serious consideration to the AIL project.

We believe we have built up a strong senior league in this country, a great product, and we don't want to do damage that.

But the Irish FA, who flatly rejected initial proposals for the formation of an All Ireland League last October, have already informed Lucid they will not entertain his new proposal and, without consent from Northern Ireland football's governing body, clubs under their affiliation would not be sanctioned to play.

Without support from both the IFA and their FAI counterparts, UEFA will not even consider granting status to a new league.

Irish FA President David Martin exclusively told Sunday Life Sport: "The Irish FA Board, after careful consultation, came to the decision we would not go down that road last October and our position has not changed.

"We are aware of the new proposal, we've seen it, we know that it has been distributed widely, but there is nothing in the document to make us change our minds. There is too much uncertainty in terms of finances. From a business perspective, the figures do not add up. They are all hypothetical.

"The proposals are based on opinions rather than actual facts so they don't stack up for us.

"We believe we have built up a strong senior league in this country, a great product, and we don't want to do damage that.

"We have not agreed to jointly examine any new report. Our position has not changed."

Irish League clubs were split last year when Lucid and his team sought interest in the form of a number of meetings.

Crusaders were understood to be bitterly disappointed the Irish FA chose to kick the initiative straight into touch.

But President Martin insists the IFA's main focus is ensuring a strong and thriving senior league when we come out of the coronavirus pandemic and he points to the fact Chief Executive Patrick Nelson and Chief Operating Officer Sean Murphy addressed the Premiership committee last week, informing them of the work they are doing on their behalf with the Northern Ireland Executive and Government agencies.

"It has been suggested that the Irish FA do not have NIFL clubs, and those who play in the Premiership, at the top of our ambitions. I would strongly refute that," states President Martin.

"Since the NIFL came into existence in 2013, and before that when clubs were under the umbrella of the IFA, senior football clubs have been a priority for us. They are the flagship for the local game. We want to see a thriving and healthy senior league, a place where young footballers are given the opportunity to further their careers and indeed be a pathway to full-time football in England and Scotland.

"We want to improve significantly the League's club co-efficient rating on the European stage.

"The senior game is prominent in the five pillars of the Irish FA's five-year strategy, which we are all working towards.

"Every business is going through a difficult time with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and it's really challenging. These are unprecedented times and it's important we support every strand of our game to make sure, when football does return, it comes back as strong as possible and we want to take the game forward."

President Martin concedes cross-border competition will continue, but only on the terms of Irish FA and FAI.

"We have spoken to the All Ireland group and we informed them that we have a number of projects with the Football Association of Ireland and their clubs which are going well and we may look to expand on," he stresses.

"We have matches in the women's game, at intermediate level involving men, the Regions Cup, our disability teams have excellent relationships with their counterparts down south, there is the President's Cup, which is a match between the winners of the respective Junior Cups, and then, of course, last year, for the first time, we held the Champions Cup and those were two great events in Dundalk and Belfast.

"There is an opportunity to widen that competition, possibly going from two teams to four and maybe even eight. But we would need to enter into discussions around that with the relevant people."

The IFA appear to have hammered a final nail in the coffin of Lucid's AIL dreams, but he didn't take no for an answer first time around and there is no indication he will accept this outcome.

Belfast Telegraph