The BBC claims that Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England are set to renew the competition, last contested in 1984, after the four home nations separately agreed to be sponsored by Vauxhall. The contract with the motoring company, which has yet to be announced but has been mooted for some time now, could be the vehicle through which the tournament, once a mainstay of the football calendar in the British Isles, makes its return.
The English FA is continuing to feel the brunt of the ongoing recession, and the collapse in 2009 of Setanta. The Irish broadcaster had been paying £150m for its portion of the rights for the FA Cup, a figure which has been reduced by around £70m under the new contract. ITV, meanwhile, is reportedly paying £275m for FA Cup and England international rights, and this too is expected to fall when their contract comes up for renewal at the end of next season. Sponsorship revenues have also fallen, while the coffers at Soho Square have also been hit by a poorer-than-anticipated World Cup performance.
|Ireland's footballers could be facing further disappointment|
Collectively, these factors have brought about what appears to be a change of heart for the bosses of English football. Initially, they declined the opportunity to appear in what is now the Carling Nations Cup but now, they look set to spearhead this renewed Home Nations Championship, one which could leave the FAI and the Republic of Ireland out in the cold.
Today’s report does state that the Republic may be invited to take part, and for financial certainty going forward, that will need to be the case. However, the inclusion of a fifth team means that sides will have to play an extra game each, and while this has financial benefits, it will also mean the requirement of two additional international dates in the already congested football calendar,
Therefore, should this competition make it’s suggested return without the Republic of Ireland, then one of two disastrous outcomes appear to be the most likely. Either the renewed Home Nations competition would exist in tandem with the Carling Nations Cup, or the new tournament between the Celtic nations would be snubbed by Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, who would swap the Aviva for Wembley Stadium and the extra funds this entauks. The former appears unlikely at best, as it would lead to a duplication of fixtures for the three other nations, and the latter would mean that one of the FAIs primary revenue streams for the years ahead would be no more, before it had barely begun.
Coming at a time when its own financial situation has come under scrutiny, and, indeed when it has been forced to take corrective action to balance the books, the FAI cannot afford this headache. Even if it does not transpire, the mere rumblings surrounding this competition have served to undermine the Carling Nations Cup just weeks before it makes its debut. Should the suggestions become something more concrete, then the FAI must do all it can to get the Republic of Ireland added to the ticket, or else the consequences for Irish football will be much worse than the loss of one friendly competition.