Sinn Féin spokesperson on Sport Chris Andrews has urged the FAI and IFA to embrace calls from League of Ireland and Irish League clubs for All-Island League proposals to be sent to UEFA for consideration.
The Dublin Bay South TD will meet FAI representatives Gary Owens and Niall Quinn on Friday.
He will urge them to embrace Kieran Lucid’s vision that could unlock the potential of football north and south, and help deliver a level of professionalism so long yearned for by Irish clubs.
Speaking today, Teachta Andrews said: “It is encouraging to see that 20 out of the 22 top flight clubs north and south are now calling for the All-Island League proposals to be sent to UEFA for consideration.
“The recent passing of Jack Charlton brought back great memories but also served as a reminder of the huge sporting potential we have on this island.
“Success should not be confined to past memories. We have great footballing talent north and south, and the two associations tasked with overseeing the sport on this island owe it to current and future generations to create a sustainable professional league.
“The globalisation of football has led to increasingly diminishing opportunities for Irish footballers in Britain. Many footballers leave these shores in their teens with great hope and expectation but return home having been unable to make the breakthrough and are left disillusioned by the game.
“The FAI and IFA owe it to them to create a platform and secure educational and employment opportunities in the sport here so that their talents can flourish on this island instead.
“Positive steps have been made by the FAI at underage level in recent years to develop and nurture young talent. The obvious next step has to be to create a real pathway towards sustainable careers.
“With 10 of the 12 Premiership clubs in the north now in favour of the All-Island League, I would encourage the IFA, who recently dismissed the idea, to meet with these clubs to discuss how Kieran Lucid’s proposals could be advanced.
“With all 10 SSE Airtricity League Premier Division clubs now supportive of the proposals, I will meet with the FAI on Friday and urge them to work constructively with the clubs, the IFA and UEFA to deliver a new vision for Irish football.
“The establishment of the Celtic League, now the PRO14, two decades ago helped transform rugby on this island.
“The challenges for football are greater, but an All-Island League can have a similar effect and finally deliver the levels of professionalism, commercial success and increased attendances that Irish clubs north and south have for so long yearned for.
“In the last year, we have seen positive examples of cross-border competitions with the establishment of the Unite the Union Champions Cup, which saw Dundalk and Linfield compete north and south.
“That was a very small step in the right direction. The time for a more unified approach from the two associations to unlock the potential of football on this island is now.”