All-Island league: IFA will not sanction clubs taking part in proposed new set-up

Glentoran's Willie Garrett battles with Shamrock Rovers' Karl Sheppard in a Setanta Sports Cup quarter-final in 2014
League of Ireland teams competed against Irish League clubs in the knockout Setanta Sports Cup competition between 2005 and 2014

The Irish Football Association says it will not sanction any of its member clubs to take part in a proposed all-island Football League as proposed by Irish businessman Kieran Lucid.

Several Irish League clubs attended an information evening about the proposals in Dundalk last week and the IFA have also been briefed about the plans.

"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," it said.

The proposals centre on an all-island 14-team Premier Division, with two 10-team regional leagues below it.

"NIFL has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 2013 and continues to attract increased sponsorship and funding," the statement continued.

"The present distribution model, unanimously agreed by all clubs, ensures all 12 teams in the Irish 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."

NIFL attendances 'on the up'

The IFA statement was issued on the same day that the Northern Ireland Football League released figures indicating that the average attendance at games in the top flight so far this season has risen 7.86% on the same period last year.

The IFA has however given support to cross-border initiatives such as the forthcoming Unite the Unions Champions Cup game between Irish League champions Linfield and their League of Ireland counterparts Dundalk.

"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."

Despite the IFA's statement, Mr Lucid insisted that he would not be shelving plans for an all-island league.

"A considerable amount of work has been done to date," he said.

"Clubs are being regularly updated and consulted with as we make progress. The work will continue."

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