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Making my All-Ireland League dream a reality is now in the hands of other people, admits Lucid

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Shayne Lavery competes for Linfield in the Unite the Union Champions Cup against Dundalk

Shayne Lavery competes for Linfield in the Unite the Union Champions Cup against Dundalk

�INPHO/Brian Little

Shayne Lavery competes for Linfield in the Unite the Union Champions Cup against Dundalk

The man behind the concept of an All-Island League has stated that it is now up to the clubs, the Irish FA, the Football Association of Ireland and UEFA to move forward with his plan.

Kerry businessman Kieran Lucid may have taken a back seat in recent months in relation to the project, but he has urged all involved to think "big and bold" to "help the game kick on" following the impact of Covid-19.

Lucid has been working on his ambitious idea since 2017 and led an All-Island League Advocacy Group containing ex-FA bigwig Alex Horne and former Republic of Ireland boss Brian Kerr.

A long and detailed consultation process was overseen by Dutch consultants Hypercube and a report was published last year outlining a vision for the future which was watered down from the original plan of having teams from north and south go head-to-head in a League format.

The proposal last April declared that All-Island champions would come from a knockout competition which would take place following a split-season where the Irish League and League of Ireland would retain independence by crowning their own champions.

From the outset, the IFA were against the plan but it is understood their views softened with the introduction of the knockout format, though with the coronavirus pandemic dominating most of the year, thoughts of an All-Island competition have not been top of the agenda.

When the report was published, there was interest from clubs, who were intrigued by the large financial figures being suggested in terms of prize money and the concept of a new competition, with all 10 top-flight League of Ireland clubs and 10 out of 12 Irish Premiership outfits said to have written to their respective associations in support of holding talks with UEFA to ascertain their views on the cross-border competition. It is understood Cliftonville and Dungannon Swifts did not sign the letter.

Just this week, Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson spoke about having a meeting with Sports Minister Deirdre Hargey about the All-Island contest alongside officials from Crusaders and Derry City.

She said: "I, along with representatives from Derry City Football Club and Crusaders FC, had a productive engagement with Sinn Féin Minister Deirdre Hargey who agreed to deal with the matter of an All-Ireland soccer League as a priority."

Right now the priority for the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) and the Irish FA is to sort out their own competitions rather than one that doesn't exist but, nevertheless, the meeting with politicians and clubs in either League is viewed as an intriguing development.

Throughout the process, Lucid has been well received by all he has talked to about his plan, even those against it. While he would love to see it happen, he has sought to clarify everyone's point of view in a constructive and professional manner which has been appreciated on both sides of the border.

Lucid said: "From our point of view as a working group, our involvement ended with the publishing of the Hypercube report on allislandleague.com (in 2020).

"With 20 of the 22 top-tier clubs on the island signing those two letters to the FAI and IFA, I would be hopeful that will count for something.

"We as an external group can't really do much more and it's now up to the clubs, FAs and UEFA to decide the next steps. It has been a very tough year for the clubs north and south and I would hope that there will be more willingness all round post-Covid to think big and bold to help the game kick on.

"The clubs are in dire straits, and I would say the two FAs are feeling it too, so why not try something new once things open up again?"

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