FAI and IFA are pulling the plug on the Union Champions Cup


Scheduling issues have forced the FAI and IFA to finally pull the plug on the extension of the Unite the Union Champions Cup in 2021, the cross-border tournament between the top teams in the League of Ireland and the Irish League.

Hamrock Rovers, St Patrick’s Athletic, Linfield and Coleraine were set to compete in an expanded version of the competition, launched in 2019 as a clash of champions on either side of the border. The union Unite acted as a sponsor and has pumped money into community initiatives alongside their support for the concept.

However, after the pandemic ended the 2020 staging, plans to stage the 2021 version in November and December were dashed by rising Covid cases – although LOI club players were also cool at this stage as their campaign ended went a close.

It has been postponed with a view to hosting 2022 but reaching an agreement on games suitable for the associations and the sponsors has proved impossible as the Irish League season reached its climax this time, which was a complication was.

Rovers and Pat’s were ready to play their semi-final during the last international break, but it was not possible to synchronize it with Linfield’s clash with Coleraine.

League of Ireland director Mark Scanlon said: “Following the COVID-19 forced postponement of the semi-finals late last year, finding alternative dates for the semi-finals and final of the 2021 Unite the Union Champions Cup has proved difficult .

“Together with Unite the Union and the IFA we had to make the difficult decision to cancel the tournament. On behalf of the FAI and our League of Ireland clubs, I would like to thank Unite the Union and my colleagues at the IFA for their continued support and consideration in decision-making.

“Unite the Union’s commitment to football and their incredible work in community with our clubs has been inspiring and we thank them for that. We will now work with all stakeholders on the off-pitch initiatives that have already proven so popular.”

The statement announcing the decision confirmed that cross-border initiatives to “promote diversity, promote equality and build community will continue, with Unite, the union, providing £50,000 in funding to go directly to communities and schools in the catchment areas of the teams involved”.

It added that talks are starting on the future of the competition itself and other initiatives.

Unite regional secretary Davy Thompson pointed to the issue of season transitions – an issue that casts doubt on the future of the tournament.

“While we are disappointed that the tournament could not be brought to a conclusion, we recognize the pressure on clubs, players and staff linked to the separate seasons and the difficulties this poses when attempting to stage a competition this sort of organize,” Thompson said.

“Covid is something that no one could have imagined when we embarked on this project and it has played a significant role in this outcome. We will continue to work closely with associations and clubs to further our community activities, which have been at the heart of the competition.” FAI and IFA are pulling the plug on the Union Champions Cup

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