Derry City back All-Island League proposal as 'seminal moment'

Derry have cited the uncertainty around Irish football’s feasibility caused by the Covid-19 pandemic as exposing the “fragility of the present model”.
Derry City back All-Island League proposal as 'seminal moment'

Derry City have branded the proposed All-Island League a "seminal moment", claiming the existing models either side of the border are not viable.

Businessman Kieran Lucid has advocated a new venture whereby clubs operating in the League of Ireland and Irish League will funnel into a stronger competition in the second half of the season, backed by enhanced prize money.

Lucid’s biggest opposition to the project has so far come from the Irish Football Association.

However, Derry have cited the uncertainty around Irish football’s feasibility caused by the Covid-19 pandemic as exposing the “fragility of the present model”.

Their warnings come in the week that FAI interim deputy CEO Niall Quinn has confirmed that a financial package to compensate clubs for resuming the season behind closed doors has yet to be finalised.

State support and Uefa intervention should provide some of the funding but clubs are reluctant to risk their futures unless their losses are guaranteed to be covered. The Players' Football Association of Ireland (PFAI) are urging a swift resolution amid ongoing confusion over a resumption.

Derry, kept afloat by local businessman Philip O’Doherty, say the current situation, entailing no sustainable incomes streams, will “more than likely make it disastrous for some clubs”. The Candystripes are one of the FAI’s four qualifiers due to participate in European competition later this year. The shortened football calendar could lead to qualifying rounds being scrapped and bonus payments culled.

Champions Dundalk are due almost €1m, while Europa League qualifiers are in line for a minimum €220,000 per round.

“The pandemic has exposed the underlying fragility of the present model,” the Candystripes said in a statement issued on Thursday.

“At present, we have two football leagues, both precarious in structure and financial viability. The consequence of the coronavirus has added to the difficulties of maintaining a football club.

“Continuing financial outgoings with no sustaining incomes makes it very difficult for most clubs to keep their heads above the financial waters.

“There is not enough income being generated to sustain the business. Great efforts are made to keep clubs in existence, but those efforts can only be limited as they lack the finances to grow the business.

“A few clubs are blessed by generous benefactors who enable them to achieve some stability and success but are hindered by the lack of buoyancy and competitiveness of the other clubs.

It always shocks fans when they discover that the prize money for winning the league in the north is £22,000 and in the southern league the prize money is €110,000.

“Pitted against the reality that it takes over £1,000,000 a year to maintain a medium successful club and the financial difficulties become apparent.

“Concentration is momentarily on questions of when and how to get leagues up and running again; on who will be declared champions and who will be relegated.

“There are pressing questions about European competitions. If and how they will take place and, contingent on those decisions, will the clubs, four in the south and three in the north, receive their payment for qualifying for the competition.

“The more successful clubs who most often qualify for European competitions depend, to a great degree, on UEFA money to keep them solvent.”

City believe the time is right to embrace the All-Island concept.

They added: “The purpose of the report was to identify a suitable format that would accommodate and benefit all stakeholders and to calculate the sporting and financial effects resulting from an All-Island League.

“Derry City is impressed by the thoroughness of the research, the understanding and sensitive way in which all clubs on the island were approached and heard, and by the weight of the financial benefits for all stakeholders that would result from the recommendations contained in the report.

“Particularly impressive is the model that accommodates the two leagues on the island to maintain their present structures and yet accommodating an all-island structure.

“Equally impressive is the format that will accommodate smaller clubs to remain comfortably within financial demands while having the opportunity and support to become more ambitious for their players and supporters.

“This is a seminal moment in the well-being and even existence of professional football on this island.

“The historical relationships between the two leagues and their governing bodies, the IFA in Northern Ireland and the FAI in the south, have not been as constructive and creative as most clubs might have wished.

“We understand the natural tensions that often exist between governing bodies and clubs but it is time to acknowledge the tenuous state of both leagues and to recognise that neither the FAI or the IFA have had the local leagues at the top of their ambitions.

“We are informed that the IFA and the FAI have agreed to jointly examine the report. We see this as creative and important.

That examination will be more authoritative if those two organisations are aware of the extent of the support that exists within the island among the clubs for an expression of professional football that is vibrant and capable of achieving the same support and success of comparable leagues.

“Derry City, whose history provides it with a unique relationship with both leagues and all the clubs on this island, wishes to affirm and support the sense and the urgency of the findings contained in the report.

“We would encourage other clubs to acknowledge the fragility of the present arrangements and to join in supporting the possibilities that an All-Island League would release.”

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