Tuesday 23 July 2019

Cross-border league and Niall Quinn plan on FAI radar

Supporters of radical changes will be given opportunity to pitch ideas at Abbotstown forum

It's understood that interim FAI boss Noel Mooney is arranging a gathering for Abbotstown next month that will be centred around the direction of the league. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
It's understood that interim FAI boss Noel Mooney is arranging a gathering for Abbotstown next month that will be centred around the direction of the league. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

A group proposing the establishment of an all-island league and the consortium led by Niall Quinn have been invited by the FAI to speak at a forum to discuss the future of the League of Ireland.

It's understood that interim FAI boss Noel Mooney is arranging a gathering for Abbotstown next month that will be centred around the direction of the league.

Mooney has indicated to the various parties that "everything is on the table" in the discussion. Clubs, referees and players are amongst the stakeholders that will be represented at the gathering.

Kerry-born entrepreneur Kieran Lucid is driving plans for a cross-border league and has contacted clubs to explain his vision.

It's believed that former Ireland manager Brian Kerr is involved in discussions around Lucid's idea.

Attempts have also been made to reach out to politicians and explain how the concept would operate with those meetings leaving a positive impression on government sources. TV companies and sponsors have been sounded out.

The Northern Irish Football League have also released a statement about the proposal of a cross-border league.

Following media reports regarding the proposed concept of an ‘All Island League’, the NI Football League can confirm that we are aware of this independent plan," read an NIFL statement.

"The NI Football League administration recently met with the architects of this proposal to keep informed of the proposal rather than receive information third hand from clubs who have held discussions with the group.

"The NI Football League have held no formal discussion on the matter as there is no formal proposal to consider.

"If and until a proposal is provided and given consideration by the NI Football League and club representatives, there will be no further comment on this matter."

Quinn's group made headlines at the beginning of the year when the ex-Irish striker and Sunderland chairman called for a revamp of the league driven by the construction of academies with government backing.

His 'visionary group' released a document around the stakeholders forum organised by Minister for Sport Shane Ross - an event where the TD stepped up his criticism of Mooney's appointment.

However, Mooney said earlier this week that he has spoken with Lucid and the Quinn camp. Talks are building towards the gathering where both men will speak for 30 minutes on behalf of their respective groups.

Ultimately, they will be making a pitch for involvement beyond 2020 as time is running out to implement any changes for next year.

The future of the league was a major discussion point for the FAI at the beginning of a year which has turned out to be one of the most dramatic in the history of Irish football.

Plans to establish a new third-party company – run as a partnership between the clubs and the FAI – were stalled by the crisis at FAI HQ.

Representatives of Premier League and First Division clubs have joined the National League Executive Committee, which met yesterday.

They convened ahead of today’s release of the recommendations of the Governance Review Group established between the FAI and Sport Ireland.

That group were tasked with drafting proposals for the overall governance of Irish football – their suggestions will have to be approved by the FAI Council and the AGM.

Their plan involves a new 12-person board, with four independent directors, one of whom would be the chair.

A president, vice-president and representatives from the League of Ireland and other constituent parts of the game will fill up the other slots.

Gender quotas are on the agenda with the aim to have four females on that board inside a certain time-frame – believed to be two years.

The layer between the board and the council is a key part of proposals. It will split into two groups; one dealing with football matters and the other focused on the area of finance, auditing and related business.

Irish Independent

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