All Ireland Football League on the horizon?

21 March 2011; Colin Hawkins, Dundalk, in action against Andrew Waterworth, Glentoran. Setanta Sports Cup, Quarter-Final, 2nd Leg, Dundalk v Glentoran, Oriel Park, Dundalk, Co. Louth. Picture credit: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

FOOTBALL clubs in Ireland have called on their governing bodies to begin the process of seeking UEFA approval for an All Ireland League.

10 out of 12 Premiership clubs from north of the border have written to the Irish FA asking them to contact UEFA about exploring the possibility, while south of the border all 10 top- flight clubs have been in touch with the FAI.

At this stage discussions fall well short of a full proposal for an island-wide competition, but clubs are said to view approval from UEFA to be the first step in seeking governmental support for the idea.

Dungannon and Cliftonville are the two clubs who did not write to the IFA, though at this stage the exact nature of their objections are still unclear.

The call follow the submission of a a lengthy consultation with Dutch firm Hypercube, who established a new format which at this early stage seems agreeable to a strong majority of clubs both north and south of the border. It would see the two leagues continue as normal in the first half of the season, before the structures would merge with the top eight from the League of Ireland Premier Division and the top six from the Danske Bank Premiership entering a knockout phase to be crowned as ‘King of the Island’.

The letter sent to the FAI from the top flight clubs points to the importance of such a new structure in driving investment into the game in Ireland and helping clubs react to the difficulties created by Covid-19.

“Should UEFA support the move, then once commercial discussions have taken place and we have full financial figures, the clubs can make final decisions about the format,” it said.

“The continuing power of the FA Premier League and the devastating consequences of the Coivd-19 crisis make the wellbeing of our national league very uncertain.

“Still, the underlying continuing popularity of football on the island and the sustained emergence of talented young players and coaches mean the game here continues to be rich in raw materials, something that’s been confirmed by Hypercube’s study.

“To transform the domestic club game requires a combination of addressing the harsh economic truths and some ambitious thinking and investment.”