Gavin defiant over Hoops 'B' team call
League chief insists move will boost game's development
AIRTRICITY LEAGUE chief Fran Gavin has defended the decision to allow Shamrock Rovers to field a second team in the First Division next season.
The FAI have confirmed that the Hoops will be represented by two sides at senior level in 2014 -- as first revealed in the Irish Independent.
Gavin says the other clubs in the league were told that the association were accepting invitations for an eighth team in the First Division, but refused to say if they were informed that a Rovers 'B' team would fill the breach.
The second Rovers side will not be eligible for promotion and they won't be allowed to compete in cup competitions. At the beginning of the year, Rovers will have to register a Premier Division squad, and a maximum of three outfield players and one goalkeeper from that group of players will be allowed to line out for the First Division team in all of their matches.
On some weekends, both teams will play on Friday nights, but the Hoops intend to play their development team's home matches in Tallaght on Sunday afternoons.
Other top-flight clubs feel that the Hoops will have an advantage by being able to keep their fringe players match-fit.
Sligo Rovers are set to enter a reserve team in the Connacht Senior League if plans to revive it come to fruition, while St Patrick's Athletic manager Liam Buckley has suggested that the Inchicore club might examine entering a team into the First Division in the future.
Gavin conceded that it will take a while for Irish football to adjust to the arrangement. Reserve teams compete at senior level in lower leagues around Europe, most notably Spain and Holland, but the difference is that movement between squads is more restricted.
However, Rovers would not have proceeded with this initiative without having the facility to move players on a week-to-week basis.
They primarily intend to use the First Division team to sign promising teenagers from around Dublin and offer them regular football to help with their development.
"We'll meet with the managers pre-season," said Gavin, when asked if complaints had been received from other parties.
"Shamrock Rovers came to us with the idea after we sent out expressions of interest. The National League Executive Committee were involved in discussions and, after lengthy negotiations, it was agreed to go ahead with it.
"It gives us the eighth team in the First Division, which all the clubs want. There are different rules in different leagues. We had to agree something that suits this league and our circumstances here and that's what we've done."
Preliminary discussions took place with potential new clubs in other parts of the country, but they failed to develop into a serious bid as the respective parties felt they simply weren't able to step up at this juncture.
"We'd like to develop football in all parts of the country, but we want to go somewhere that's ready," said Gavin. "We want to build clubs that are stable and are in it for the long term. This is a big commitment for Shamrock Rovers financially."
Meanwhile, the FAI will sit down with RTE shortly to decide how many Premier Division matches will be shown live in 2014.
The 'Monday Night Soccer' programme will continue, although there is no confirmation yet on a time slot. Clubs have expressed the concern that covering too many games live could affect attendances.
Attendances at Premier Division matches rose marginally in 2013, with a total figure of 297,796 across the campaign. The First Division total was 44,000.