Proposals to create an all-Ireland football league will be opposed by Northern Ireland’s governing body, according to recently elected chairman Conrad Kirkwood.
r Kirkwood also said the recent decision to extend Ian Baraclough’s contract as national team manager was a “unanimous” decision within the organisation.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, the new chairman of the Irish Football Association said the organisation’s position on an island-wide football league was “clear and unwavering”.
He also said Northern Ireland should have a national training center and called for money for stadiums across the country to be released before the end of the Assembly’s current term.
Mr Kirkwood took up his post at the IFA this summer, having been elected president to succeed David Martin.
He said longstanding proposals for a pan-Irish league format, first put forward by Kerry businessman Kieran Lucid in 2017, would be rejected by the IFA.
“The IFA’s position on the prospect of an All-Ireland League has been clear and unwavering. We have confirmed that it will not allow any of our member clubs to participate in an All-Island Football League ( all of Ireland),” he said.
“It is important to remember that the clubs in the NI Football League have improved in European competition and improved our position. We must do everything we can to improve the local game at all levels and we We will launch our new five-year strategy early next year.
Mr Kirkwood said the organization’s priority was to create an academy center for the region and said the £36m pledged to local clubs under the sub-regional stadium funding scheme should be books.
Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has previously said she is “on track” to deliver the local football funding scheme ahead of the upcoming Northern Ireland Assembly elections.
Funding was originally allocated in 2015 but was blocked by the collapse of Stormont in January 2017.
“We need a national training center. We need to improve the regional stadiums – the government can help us with that and hopefully the funding can be released before the next government term,” Mr Kirkwood added.
“Clubs need money. My role and that of the Irish FA is to push for significant funding.
Mr Kirkwood has described Northern Ireland as punching above its weight in world football because to describe the nation as ‘small’ is ‘slightly pejorative’.
He said the men’s and women’s teams had “a lot of fighting” and added that a new contract for senior men’s coach Ian Barraclough was “unanimous”.
Northern Ireland sit fourth in the five-team World Cup qualifying group, having picked up just five points from six matches and with their qualification hopes dashed ahead of next week’s final matches at home against Lithuania and Italy.
“The senior men’s team has improved under Michael O’Neill and Ian Baraclough’s role is to build on the structure that Michael, and Ian as Under-21 manager at the time, helped create. “, did he declare.
“Under the tutelage of Kenny Shiels, the senior women’s team qualified for the UEFA Women’s Euro and captured everyone’s imagination.
“We have highly professional teams from Powerchair and Cerebral Palsy who have also qualified for international tournaments.”
He added: “The decision to seek to renew Ian’s contract was taken unanimously. Renewal negotiations are ongoing with Ian and his agent.
“We will be able to say more when these are completed. For now, like all Northern Ireland supporters, I am looking forward to the next two home games and looking to support the team and the manager.
Meanwhile, Mr Kirkwood said the IFA would oppose FIFA’s proposals to stage the World Cup every two years.
Plans promoted by former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger suggest staging the tournament in June every two years.
Mr Kirkwood said the international fixtures calendar is “already packed” and expressed concern that such an idea could mean “less engagement with fans and a possibility of losing the prestige of the competition”.
“We are one of the oldest associations in football and we don’t want people to lose interest in the best competition in the world,” he added.