Saturday 10 December 2016

League of Ireland season to start a week earlier to avoid fixture chaos

John Fallon

Published 17/11/2016 | 02:30

Dundalk’s exploits in European competition, in particular,brought pressure points to the traditional problem of the league’s condensed schedule. Photo: PA
Dundalk’s exploits in European competition, in particular,brought pressure points to the traditional problem of the league’s condensed schedule. Photo: PA

The FAI has learned the lesson of this year's farcical League of Ireland fixture pile-up by opting to start the 2017 season a week earlier.

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Dundalk's exploits in European competition, in particular, brought pressure points to the traditional problem of the league's condensed schedule, but the Lilywhites weren't alone, as the likes of Derry City also hit out at the limited turnaround between fixtures.

In response, League Director Fran Gavin yesterday confirmed the new season is to kick-off on Friday, February 24, with the mid-season break cut by a week to the first fortnight in June.

Still, there will remain a 17-week, or a four-month, gap between this year's finish and next season's start, retaining Ireland's inglorious status as having the longest off-season in European football.

In an open letter to clubs, Gavin began his look ahead to next season by outlining the recruitment of a "full-time" marketing executive to the league.

In reality, though, this measure is more akin to a belated replacement, as the previous holder of that role, Noel Mooney, didn't have a standalone successor following his departure five years ago.

That cutback amid the FAI's worsening financial position coincided with the withdrawal of the €15,000 annual grant for Club Promotions Officers (CPOs), an essential resource were the league's directive to their members to embed themselves in their communities to be realised.

Agree

Clubs may be placated to a degree by the nomination of two from their own membership to join the paid FAI executive on the new marketing group.

This initiative was proposed by Michael Cush, the barrister representing the interests of clubs still trying to agree on elements of the Conroy Report initially published all of 14 months ago.

Elsewhere, Gavin highlights incidences of unruly behaviour by certain sections of fans, touching on the use of flares in stadiums which has resulted in heavy fines. Indeed, the majority of the €10,550 that Shamrock Rovers shipped in fines this year was accounted for by fans setting off flares.

It left the Hoops with a measly prize pot of €4,500 from the FAI for finishing fourth in the table.

Meanwhile, Rovers have confirmed caretaker boss Stephen Bradley as permanent manager.

Former Ireland legend Damien Duff is set to stay on as part of his backroom team, with a clutch of new players - including Darren Meenan and Roberto Lopes - poised to join the club, adding to the capture of Paul Corry last week.

Irish Independent

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