The prospect of an all island league is something that has been hotly debated in the football community on the island of Ireland for a long time.
The FAI have always been open to discussing the idea. While the IFA have always been against an all island league. They refused to explore the idea even as recent as last year.
Things now seem to be moving in a positive direction for the possibility of an all island league.
All 10 League of Ireland Premier Division clubs have written to the FAI to express their desire for the association to engage with UEFA on the issue.
RTE Sports managed to see the letter that was signed by all Premier Division clubs. The letter talks about the impact of Covid-19 and the lockdown posing a serious threat to the League of Ireland. It called on the FAI to work with both UEFA and the IFA to explore the option of the cross-border competition.
This comes a week after 10 of the 12 NIFL Danske Bank Premiership clubs sent a similar letter to the IFA. In that letter they implored the IFA to send a proposal for an all island league to UEFA.
Its believed Cliftonville and Dungannon Swifts are the two clubs that didn’t sign the letter. Maybe the likes of Cliftonville are happy to be a big fish in a small pond.
Best Way Forward?
This means that 20 out of the 22 top tier clubs on the island of Ireland have asked a format is sent to UEFA. Some good positivity for all in favour of an all island league. With the majority believing it’s the best way forward.
The difficult times we find ourselves in seem to have pushed this up the agenda. Due to the current pandemic all clubs are struggling financially. I for one think it’s the best thing for football on the island of Ireland going forward. It will certainly make more money for clubs commercially and provide better television coverage overall.
League of Ireland Premier Division clubs feel that UEFA should support this. Once commercial and financial decisions are made a final decision can be made on the format.
Speaking of the format. Irish entrepreneur Kieran Lucid started work on a potential all island league three years ago. He worked with a Dutch group called Hypercube to work with stakeholders to make up an agreeable format. They have settled on a split season arrangement.
This will see both domestic leagues played separately to each other. They will then come together in a league and knockout tournament to crown the overall all island winner.
The League of Ireland Premier Division and NIFL Premiership will both go ahead as a 12-team league. Every team will play 2 rounds of eleven matches home and way. With each team playing a total of 22 matches.
At the end of their respected seasons the top eight teams of the League of Ireland will join the top six teams from the NIFL. They will join each other in a cross-border competition being called for now ‘King of the Island.’
They will first go into a joint league table with their points in that table starting at zero.
In this joint league every team will only play each other once. Points from these games will also be added to the teams originally domestic table.
This is to keep existing places in European competitions. As the European places is will be giving based off their separate domestic league tables. With the winners of each league getting into Champions League qualifiers. While second and third of both leagues will get into Europa League qualification.
‘King of the Island’
Meanwhile the bottom six of the NIFL would enter the ‘IFA Silver Round.’ While the bottom four teams of the League of Ireland Premier Division will be joined by the top two First Division teams in the ‘FAI Silver Round.’
This will solve issues such as promotion/relegation. The winner of each ‘Silver Round’ table will qualify for the ‘King of the Island’ knockout stages.
All very confusing with words. My recommendation would be to check out All-Island League on your preferred social media platform.
They have much more clear videos up there. They go into better detail on the ‘King of the Island’ cross border tournament. Along with talking about the NIFL Championship and League of Ireland First Division.
They have nice tables to help explain all this. Certainly, better than this sham ever will.
The endgame is to have a final tie in either the Aviva Stadium or Windsor Park to crown the ‘King of the Island.’
Don’t worry that name won’t be sticking around. It will be more than likely named after a sponsor. The Paddy Power tournament or something like that.
Kieran Lucid has said this will only happen with the full co-operation of FAI, IFA and UEFA. This will be the next step forward to seek help from their respective associations. It certainly seems to have legs to it and the right people behind it to bring it to fruition.
When and if it is approved by UEFA, we will get a better idea for financial figures on funding the league and things like that.
In all honestly, I hope it does happen at some stage. As a long-term League of Ireland fan, it is a topic I’ve heard been discussed for years now.
Of course, not everyone will share my enthusiasm. Especially those in Northern Ireland as it seems to be received more positively in the Republic of Ireland amongst fans.
Pros and Cons
Some issues like travel are being talked about on forums up and down the country. With fans of Northern Ireland sides having probably having to travel much further than usual.
In fairness Derry City have been doing this for decades. While they have teams like Finn Harps, Dundalk and Sligo Rovers relatively close to them in the Premier Division. They still have long journeys to Dublin or down to Munster on a regular basis.
I understand many Northern Ireland teams will have much longer journeys than what they currently do. But that will work both ways. Cork City fans for example will have a nightmare journey up North.
Teams like Derry and Finn Harps have long journeys most week. They prove that travel isn’t an issue and it can be done. While our island isn’t the best in terms of public transport it is still doable. It will be tough especially if games continue to be played on a Friday, but it can be done.
Another huge issue I have seen been discussed online is safety. Unfortunately, every club in the North and South have a small group of idiots out for violence.
Personally, I have went to games all over the country and seen unsavoury scenes. This does happen every now and again up and down the country. Not just up in Northern Ireland or Dublin. Saying that most of the games are perfectly safe.
In an ideal world it would be great to leave sectarianism at the turnstiles. It will something that will need to be nipped in the bud as soon as it rears its ugly head.
These are important issues that will need to be looked at. It seems that the pros really outweigh the cons. Especially in a sporting and financial aspect.
This proposed format seems to be fair on its distribution model with prize money. Making sure that no team gets left behind. Along with better prize money the new format will hopefully bring new interest and boost gate receipts.
Again, I would highly recommend checking out All-Island League on social media. They have very helpful videos and documents that go into much better detail. With it being a big issue, we just wanted to chime in with our two cents.
Like everything else this is just one opinion. It would be great to hear your opinion on an all island league. Are you for or against it and why?