The FAI and the IFA have announced the creation of a new cross-border tournament – the Unite the Union Champions Cup.
Sponsored by the trade union Unite, the competition will see the SSE Airtricity League Champions play the winners of the Danske Bank Premiership in a two-legged final.
The first edition of the competition will take place in November 2019 and will be formally launched at the Unite union’s Fifth Irish Policy Conference in Malahide next Monday, May 13.
Unite have signed a three-year deal to sponsor the cross-border tournament with €50,000 set to go to the winners, €25,000 for the runners-up and a further €25,000 ring-fenced for community-based projects in the competing team’s local areas.
The first edition of the competition will feature current Danske Bank Premiership Champions Linfield and they will face the 2019 Champions of the SSE Airtricity League, with the season set to conclude in October.
“We’re delighted to formally announce the Unite the Union Champions Cup and we’re extremely excited for the competition to begin,” said Fran Gavin, FAI Competitions Director.
“I’d like to thank the IFA, in particular, Patrick Nelson, who have been fantastic to work with on the project and it’s great to see a cross-border tournament return.”
There will be excitement among the clubs with a lucrative additional home fixture at the end of the domestic season in the Republic and the prize money offered will be a major boost.
It represents half again of the amount the Champions will earn in prize money for winning the entire competition.
“I’d also like to thank Unite, in particular, Brendan Ogle and his colleagues, for their sponsorship of the tournament and the community work they’re committed to as part of the competition, both north and south of the border,” added Gavin.
“It’s a unique sponsorship and we’re looking forward to help promote Unite’s equality agenda.”
“Our union has a strong anti-sectarian and anti-racist ethos, and we support gender and sexual equality campaigns,” said Unite Official Brendan Ogle, a familiar voice in the media and close to cross border thinking on a personal level through being from Louth.
“We salute the work done by civil society organisations to tackle racism in sport, and we hope to work with such groups to promote equality and diversity through the Champions Cup.”
“Local communities and local clubs need support now more than ever, and Unite wants to provide some of that support while sending a clear message: we can celebrate our own identities while respecting others.”
“This is a fantastic new cross-border competition and one that I am sure will capture the imagination of football fans right across the island of Ireland,” said Patrick Stewart, CEO of the Irish Football Association.
“I would like to thank Unite the Union for their sponsorship, especially for ring-fencing a significant sum for community projects. This is a competition that will bring people together and one that will have lasting benefits for clubs as well as fans.”
This is not a sponsorship you could have seen coming and is all the more important for bringing the significant community as well as financial elements to the fore.
Unite was created a decade ago through the amalgamation of the Amicus and historically powerful ITGWU trade unions.
It has a significant presence across public and private sector workers north and south of the border.