The Irish Football Association, the governing body for the sport in Northern Ireland, 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 businessman Kieran Lucid.
The Association’s CEO Patrick Nelson, pictured above, issued a statement yesterday that appears to now cast serious doubt on whether the League can progress. It had previously stated that support would be required from the clubs, who met in Dundalk last week to hear more, the IFA, the FAI and UEFA.
“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),” read the statement.
“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.”
The Lucid team reacted yesterday with disappointment.
“We note the announcement of the IFA,” they said in a statement of their own.
“The project we are embarked on is to support and improve the lot of professional football clubs on the island of Ireland.”
“We remain focused on that objective. A considerable amount of work has been done to date; clubs are being regularly updated and consulted with as we make progress. The work will continue.”
A meeting of clubs in the Republic of Ireland is due later this month to move to the next stage of determining plans for the 2021 season and beyond.
Image credit: Dan Sheridan, Inpho.ie