Second-tier proposal suggests July finish to competition
Counties in the third and fourth divisions of the National Football League may have to go straight into a second-tier competition instead of having the option of making progress through qualifiers.
Two proposals will be put to Central Council which meets this weekend with a view to establishing consensus for a motion to a Special Congress on the issue of a secondary competition, expected to take place on October 19 in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
And the intention is to have the new competition wrapped up by the end of July at the earliest to allow for more club time in competing counties, spiking hopes that it would be played on the same day as an All-Ireland final.
The first proposal lays out a straight knockout competition for teams in the two lower divisions once their provincial championship interest is over.
The second option gives a second chance in the second-tier competition. If a team loses in the first round of the second tier they enter a losers' group (2b) with first-round winners playing against each other in round 2A. The winners of round 2A and 2B would then meet in quarter-finals.
Some county managers and players had expressed hope that they could still enter the qualifiers and if they didn't progress past the second round could then turn their attention to a second-tier competition.
But this has been knocked on the head and will not be on a Central Council or subsequently Special Congress agenda.
In both options, any Division 3 or 4 teams which reach a provincial final would be included in the qualifiers.
However, in the second option, which caters for a second-tier second chance, the need to have 16 teams competing would mean that, in the event of a Division 3 or 4 team qualifying for a provincial final, the lowest-ranked Division 2 team would then have to play in a second-tier competition.
It is also proposed that the first round in both proposals would be organised on a geographical basis, northern and southern conferences, to ease potential travel difficulties for supporters and create more local rivalries. An All-Star or Champion team would be picked every year and brought on tour, according to the proposal document.
The potential timing of both options is interesting. It is envisaged that the first option would take one week less to run and would be ready for conclusion on the same weekend as the second round of 'Super 8s' games which are taking place in Croke Park on July 20/21 this year.
With a commitment given to broadcast the second-tier final live, that would, potentially, place it on a schedule with an All-Ireland quarter-final.
The second option would finish a week later because an extra round is required to accommodate the second chance which would put it on the same programme as an All-Ireland hurling semi-final on July 27/28.
The winners of the second-tier competition would gain automatic entry to the following year's qualifiers, irrespective of their league status that year.