IRISH FOOTBALL Association chiefs in Belfast have blown a massive hole in attempts to set up an All-Ireland League by revealing they’re not interested in the project at present.
IFA chief executive Howard Wells has told the prime mover in the project, Fintan Drury, that he does not see much point in talks at the moment.
The blow comes in the wake of a meeting between ten clubs — eight from the eircom League and two from the north’s Carnegie League — organised to discuss the project’s feasibility.
Representatives from Bohemians, Cork City, Derry City, Drogheda Utd, St Pat’s, Limerick 37, Shamrock Rovers and Galway United met with Linfield and Glentoran officials last Friday and urged the IFA and the FAI to begin talks on the possibility of an All-Ireland League.
However, it has emerged that prior to the meeting, IFA chief Mr Wells had already communicated to Mr Drury and FAI chief executive John Delaney that northern officials have other priorities at present.
“The Irish Football Association does not think a meeting would be appropriate at this point in time,” Mr Wells informed Drury. “Firstly we are in the process of setting up our own Invitational League with effect from this August, which is very time consuming at the moment and I would not wish anything to happen to derail that.
“Secondly we are also in discussion with Setanta about the expansion of their competition for 2009, and I think it would be disingenuous of us to consider other options at this point.
“The situation may change but these factors militate against further dialogue at this stage,” Mr Wells commented.
Fintan Drury is the key commercial driver in the project. Mr Drury, who heads up the Irish end of the British-based sports agency Platinum One, has been working on a business plan for a league involving the leading clubs from both sides of the border.
Aiding Drury is former Derry City managing director Jim Roddy, and both have held meetings with representatives of clubs as well as a number of politicians to gauge support for the new league.
While many leading clubs are understandably enthusiastic about the prospect of playing in a single league, selling the idea to the two associations will be a major challenge for either grouping.
Also, given the respective priorities of both associations, in terms of underpinning their own leagues, serious talks about an All-Ireland League is a few years away yet.
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