FAI reject change to league format
THE FAI has rejected proposals from League of Ireland clubs to scrap the 10-team Premier Division and either introduce one division for all sides or establish a new top flight for 16 teams.
Four motions related to the structure of the league were brought up at the clubs' annual convention at Abbotstown on Tuesday night, but the top table, which included FAI chief executive John Delaney, said that such a change could not be facilitated.
The current format of a 10-team Premier Division and 12-team First Division is deeply unpopular and the recently completed wide-ranging League of Ireland Review, seen by the Irish Independent, reveals that 72pc of managers, players and club officials believe the existing system is flawed.
In the two-hour summit in Abbotstown, Monaghan and Waterford United requested a one-league structure to be established, while Drogheda United proposed that the top 16 clubs form a new Premier Division with the rest consigned to the 'A' Championship.
However, the FAI argued that such a change was impossible at the conclusion of a season where clubs had competed in promotion and relegation battles and played for their 2010 places on football merit. If a change in structure was imminent, it would have to be outlined at the beginning of the preceding campaign.
Numerous figures in the game have spoken out against the 10-team top flight, arguing there is too much repetition while clubs in the First Division feel isolated.
In total, 22 motions were raised at the convention with other headings related to the length of the playing season, the 'A' Championship, refereeing, disciplinary and commercial issues. Most were dismissed, although the FAI agreed that some matters would be discussed by the league's executive.
That includes the future of the mid-season break, with Dundalk bringing forward a motion suggesting its removal. The Louth club also wish to reduce the playing season by two weeks to reduce financial pressures. Managers are split on the retention of the break, but 54pc of club officials wish for it to be scrapped as they can bring in no income during this week but most are still paying their players and staff.
Drogheda United called for the league to cease sponsorship with national newspapers, betting chains and radio stations other than RTE. A number of clubs feel their income has been hit by the umbrella sponsorship of the league by Boylesports, 'The Star' and Newstalk.
The terms of their respective arrangements with the FAI mean that rival operations are prevented from offering certain kinds of sponsorship, thus closing a potential revenue stream.
While the FAI will discuss the club's concerns, they counter that prize money from the league has increased. Going forward, consideration will be given to distributing prize money in a more equal fashion amongst all clubs. At present, the league champions receive €280,000.
Dundalk also appealed for the scrapping of the 'A' Championship, believing that it is putting an unwelcome financial burden on participating clubs, with Waterford United stressing that it should be optional rather than compulsory for senior sides to field a reserve team in a league which also features emerging non-league teams aspiring towards League of Ireland level.
The competition has been beset by problems, with Drogheda bringing a motion to complain about the "unacceptable level" of refereeing.
The Irish Independent has learned of one case where a club, short of two players for an away 'A' Championship match, paid two locals to make up their team while a number of fixtures have been postponed because clubs didn't have enough players.
However, the FAI are adamant that the league will play a vital part in the future development of the game.
Abbotstown authorities said they could not consider four motions related to officialdom as they are subject to discussions with the Referees Department in the FAI.
Waterford have called for an "urgent review" of referees fees and expenses in light of the current economic situation. It's understood that the FAI are in negotiations with referees about this matter.
Yet they will not be acting upon a motion from Dundalk asking that a referee should not be appointed to a game where one of the competing teams are from the same city or town as the referee.
With half of next year's Premier Division clubs based in Dublin and the majority of officials hailing from the capital, such a policy would be unsustainable without a dramatic cull of the current hierarchy.