Proposals for an all-island Irish football league put forward

Could Ireland have an all-island Irish football league? Here we take a look at proposed plans to develop one.

Kerry businessman Kieran Lucid has put forward plans to develop an all-island Irish football League, which would see a merger between NIFL (Northern Ireland Football League) Premiership and the League of Ireland teams across Ireland.

Lucid put forward the idea alongside former Ireland manager Brian Kerr and former English Football Association (FA) general secretary Alex Horne.

The proposals

Credit: www.nifootballleague.com

Under the ambitious proposals, the current system of one league for teams from the North of Ireland (NIFL Premiership) and one league for teams from the south of Ireland (League of Ireland) would make way for a 14-team top division comprising teams from both the North and South of Ireland.

The new plans would then see two ten-team regional divisions below the top division, with promotion and relegation at all levels.

Meeting in Dundalk

Plans for the new League gained momentum after an information meeting held on 24 October 2019 in Dundalk was attended by the majority of teams who were invited from across the country and who expressed a positive view on the proposals.

The League of Ireland has been reported to have given the idea the green light, as long as its clubs support the proposals.

Lucid believes that, if carried through, an all-island league would make all Irish clubs more competitive in European competitions, and allow them to gain from the resources available from playing in the Europa League and Champions League.

Plans in jeopardy

Credit: fai.ie

However, plans for the all-island league have been dealt a serious blow, as the Irish Football Association (IFA), the governing body of football in the North of Ireland, announced they would not sanction any of their clubs to participate in the new league.

The IFA stated, “We believe the best interests of our member clubs and football in Northern Ireland are best served by remaining with the club-led model established via the NI Football League.”

Support for cross-border initiatives

Despite the rejection, the IFA reaffirmed their support for cross-border co-operation with the League of Ireland and the Football Association of Ireland (FAI).

The IFA stated it would continue to take part in the cross-border competitions at all levels, such as the Unite the Union Champions Cup game between NIFL Champions Linfield and League of Ireland kingpins Dundalk.

Work to continue on project 

Responding to the IFA’s rejection of his plans, Lucid stated that “the work will continue” on the project. Lucid believes the all-island league will “support and improve the lot of professional clubs on the island of Ireland. We remain focused on that objective.”

Lucid warned that a “considerable amount of work has been done to date” on the proposals and that “clubs are being regularly updated and consulted with as we make progress.” 

What’s needed for it to work

In order for the plans for the all-island league to become a reality, they require the backing of the clubs and the two Irish football federations, alongside the European football governing body, UEFA.

For now, the proposals are in danger of falling through entirely, but with the support of the League of Ireland and clubs across Ireland, there is still hope that the proposals will materialise in to the first all-island Irish football league.

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