Ireland invited to play part in expanded 'home' nations
THE FAI have been invited to take part in an expanded version of the old 'home' nations competition between England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, which is lined up for a possible 2013 return.
Moves to set up the tournament are being driven by the English FA, who are keen to revive it as an extra carrot to convince Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to join them in forming a Great Britain team for the 2012 London Olympics.
The three associations are reluctant to do so, fearing the precedent it would set with a view to the future. Yet the English FA are hoping that guarantees from FIFA with respect to their football independence, and the promise of revenue from the revived competition, will twist their arm.
It had been assumed that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland were tied into the Carling Four Nations Tournament with Ireland until 2017. The first matches in the inaugural staging are upcoming in Dublin next month.
But FAI sources have confirmed that the contract for the tournament is only fixed for one staging, with the prospect of three more renewals to be reviewed afterwards. The commercial relationship with Carling is also based on that premise.
Therefore, the possibility of an Irish team taking part is not prevented by any contractual arrangement. England were invited to participate in the Carling tournament but declined.
Separately, the English FA are in discussions with FAI officials about a friendly at the Aviva next year. It's unclear if those plans would be affected by the latest developments.
England's new sponsors Vauxhall are set to announce a new deal which also includes Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland today.
Considering that Ireland have loose plans with their Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish associations for the next decade, they would have expected to be kept in the loop with regard to any variation on the initiative. Certainly, the financial boost from English involvement would appeal to FAI officials.
The original Home Nations tournament, which can be traced back to 1883, ceased in 1984 because of a drop in interest and issues arising from crowd disturbances.
At the height of the Troubles, England and Wales refused to travel to Northern Ireland in 1981 and there were also issues surrounding the meetings of England and Scotland.
Ireland haven't played England since the infamous friendly at Lansdowne Road in 1995 which was called off in the first half due to hooliganism from sections of the away support. The respective associations are confident they have the modern stadia and security capabilities to avoid a repeat of those ugly scenes.