Ireland internationals donate to emergency fund supporting League of Ireland players

James McClean, Enda Stevens, and Kevin Long are behind the initiative.

Ireland internationals donate to emergency fund supporting League of Ireland players

A group of former League of Ireland players, who are current Irish internationals, have donated €25,000 to an emergency fund to support League of Ireland players.

James McClean, Enda Stevens, and Kevin Long – all clients of Graham Barrett’s Integrity Sports agency – are behind the initiative.

Former Ireland international Barrett outlined the thrust behind the move, noting his array of clients are upset to see the league they thrived in suffer most due to lack of television revenue and reliance on matchday income.

It has been suggested that the fund could be increased as interest from former league players spikes.

"Over the past few days, I have been in conversation with a number of my clients from Integrity Sports about how they and I would like to help people," said the ex-Arsenal striker.

"The challenge for us was trying to identify where best to begin because right now, there are so many deserving cases and so many people in need.

"Together, we have decided what little help we can to an industry very close to our hearts, the health and welfare of the people within the League of Ireland. The league is where most of Integrity Sport's international clients like James McClean, Enda Stevens, Kevin Long, Gavin Bazunu, etc. began their careers and their opportunities were born here.

"Others like Jack Byrne and Graham Burke credit the League of Ireland clubs and the people they have dealt with in the league as the reason they have now also become senior internationals.

"As of today, we have raised €25,000. This money will be put towards an Emergency Fund to be used by Noel (Byrne - Shamrock Rovers official and chair of the National League Executive Committee) and the NLEC in conjunction with Stephen McGuinness and Ollie Cahill of the PFAI, to aid players who will undoubtedly need assistance in the coming weeks.

"We know that this money is not a solution in itself and we have made the gesture because we have all benefited from being involved with the League of Ireland and recognise that the league's survival is imperative to the continued progression of football within this country.

"Right now, it may feel as if the world is falling down and people are naturally very anxious but keeping each other safe and following the government guidelines to achieve this now is of paramount importance.

"This morning, I spoke to Noel and we know that a number of clubs are facing significant financial challenges and simply do not have the cash to continue to pay their players while the league remains suspended.

"I shared this information with Integrity's clients and, to a man, they were extremely anxious to be proactive and make some tangible contribution to help ease the difficulties most in the League of Ireland are now suffering. They have never ever forgotten where they have come in football and never will."

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