Monday 16 September 2019

October D-Day for decision on league as cash queries linger

FAI representative Noel Mooney. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
FAI representative Noel Mooney. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

A decision on the future direction of the League of Ireland is pencilled in for the end of October, but there are concerns that the financial uncertainty hanging over the FAI will cloud the path forward.

The new National League Executive Committee met in Abbotstown yesterday to discuss where things stand, with the five club representatives keen to have questions answered on fresh stories about the FAI finances.

Stories of payments related to the John Giles Foundation 'Walk of Dreams' concept came up in the summit.

A Monday meeting of the Premier Clubs Alliance (PCA) had raised concerns about the revelations in light of their long-standing attempts to seek clarity on the FAI finances and claims from Abbotstown about the cost of running the league.

They are looking for an updated set of accounts dealing specifically with the League of Ireland income and expenditure with FAI representatives Noel Mooney (right) and Fran Gavin indicating that the information will be forthcoming.

Clubs are also unhappy with the €19,000 affiliation fee that is a condition of entry to the league - and no dramatic change is anticipated for 2020.

That is because the most pressing concern is a definite call on the running of the league beyond next season.

Kieran Lucid, the driver behind the all-island league plan, is due to speak at a workshop pencilled in for the Aviva Stadium on September 10.

He is due to provide an update on how his plans for a cross-border league are developing.

Attempts have been made to establish where things stand with Niall Quinn's Visionary Group.

The belief is that the road ahead will either involve Lucid receiving the endorsement to press ahead with his plan or else the southern clubs will have to drive on with their own commercial plan.

FAI officials want a vote to be taken at a bigger meeting at the end of October. A hybrid model run between the clubs and the FAI was on the cards at the beginning of a year of turmoil for Irish football.

And the chaos has posed problems for ascertaining what sort of commitment the FAI can make to domestic football going forward.

Business plans are being devised for the running of the game as a whole with debt repayments the biggest problem and UEFA providing support amid fears that redundancies are on the cards.

Therefore, the concept of a complete breakaway would be welcomed in some quarters.

Lucid has impressed with certain aspects of his detailed proposals for a league that would kick off in 2021 with a new TV deal and sponsorship instigating a significant rise in prize funds - the tech millionaire has said there are several interested parties.

But members of the NLEC remain to be convinced that the northern clubs and the IFA are fully on board with the initiative, having heard soundings to the contrary.

There is also an absence of certainty around where UEFA stand on the idea and that is fuelling the school of thought that putting all the eggs in that basket right now could be hasty. Yet the absence of a clear alternative means a green light for Lucid remains a possibility.

Irish Independent

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