There have been reports recently that Ellen Vannin, an Isle of Man representative soccer team, are in advanced talks with an off-island Football Association about the prospect of the side joining their domestic league. That could only be one of three – the Football Association of Wales, Irish Football Association or the Football Association of Ireland. The reports strongly hinted at Ireland, which would narrow it down further to just the IFA or FAI.
The Isle of Man has long-since had its own football league. The IOM FA have chosen not to join UEFA as of yet, and so the representative team of the island [which is made up of players from clubs in the domestic league, regardless of whether they have any Manx connection] is essentially limited to competing in the biennial Island Games.
In order to help progress the national side further and offer greater opportunities to domestic players, a rival body to the established FA was set up on the island in 2013. The Manx International Football Alliance [MIFA] was set up with the objective of playing in the 2015 CONIFA [Confederation of Independent Football Associations] World Cup. Under CONIFA rules the traditional Manx representative side wasn’t eligible due to its inclusion of players with no Manx heritage. The MIFA side took the name Ellen Vannin [Isle of Man in Manx Gaelic].
Ellen Vannin distinguished themselves at the 2015 CONIFA tournament, winning their group and finishing as runners-up overall. Now the people behind MIFA and Ellen Vannin want to take the side further and enter it into a higher-standard league than is on offer on the island. Hence the discussions mentioned above with the FAW, IFA or FAI.
There are some precedents for all of this, Guernsey FC probably being the highest-profile example. Frustrated with the standard of the Guernsey domestic league and not content with the limited international opportunities offered to the island’s footballers [bragging rights in the annual Muratti Vase game against Jersey being the highlight], a group of Guernsey natives [including Matt Le Tissier] set up Guernsey FC and entered the English football pyramid. They have been successful, and have moved up through the divisions. Currently they play in the Isthmian League which is just below the National League [Conference].
Obviously there would be many issues to sort out if it turns out that Ellen Vannin want to join the SSE Airtricity League. The transport and accomodation costs of teams travelling to the Isle of Man would be top of the list. In the Guernsey FC case, they were made liable for shouldering these costs for teams visiting the island. Alternatively Ellen Vannin could base them here but that would rob them of their domestic fan base so I can’t see that being a runner.
The finer details aside, would you welcome such a move or not? Obviously it’s only talk at the moment, but if it came to pass, would you welcome them into our league? I certainly would. It would be a change and a challenge, but our league needs to change. By changing nothing, nothing changes.