Top flight expansion set to be capped at 12 teams
CLUBS and officials lobbying for the introduction of a considerably enlarged League of Ireland Premier Division are set to be disappointed after the National League Executive Committee confirmed their intention to extend the top flight to just 12 teams.
However, all plans were on hold last night after a meeting of senior clubs in Abbotstown dragged on amid disagreements over the make-up of the First Division. The final decision will be made by the FAI Board of Management on December 10.
There are currently 10 teams in the top flight, and that is now set to rise by two for the 2012 campaign. It is envisaged they will each play each other twice before the league splits into two after 22 games, with the teams in the respective halves encountering each other twice more in the final run-in.
The NLEC, who met earlier in the day, came to the table with a proposal that the second tier would be divided into two regional leagues of eight, with senior sides from the 'A' Championship bumped up a tier to make up the numbers.
Yet that suggestion was opposed by the meeting, with a nationwide First Division with an undetermined amount of teams set to operate from 2012 onwards.
The news that a 12-team top flight is on the cards has angered those in the nether regions of the Premier Division and top half of the First Division who had argued that a 14 or 16 team competition would offer greater stability, and remove the repetition of fixtures which they believe affects attendances.
A 16-team top flight would also have guaranteed a regional spread compared to the current Dublin-centric league, with no Munster representation again in 2011.
Some clubs at the meeting argued that the league should gradually work towards extending the Premier Division to a 14 team competition by 2014 or 2015.
It seems likely that three teams will be promoted from next year's First Division with the bottom team in the Premier relegated.