With all the games already played this season is there too many competitions in the current League of Ireland structure? I believe there is and here is the new format that I would love to see the FAI adopt to benefit the future of the League.
League: Ideally I would love to see an 18 team All-Ireland Premier Division with the top 9 League of Ireland and top 9 Irish League teams in one league and then two regional divisions playing below that. Now this unfortunately will not happen as both associations would need to merge and the clubs have very little foresight into what’s best for the football in this country. I think this type of league would gain a real interest in the public domain and we could even get a decent TV deal and more lucrative sponsorship deals if we created this.
As I don’t believe this will happen anytime soon here is what I would like to see happen right now: one 18 team Premier Division, this debate has rumbled on for years but I believe the 10 or 12 team format is outdated and too small. There is not one decent league in Europe with 16 teams or less so why do we think we can make a decent one here? We need a bigger league to stop the monotony of teams playing each other so many times each season. I know people believe we don’t have 18 teams strong enough to compete but it is my opinion that we would have if we organised it right. 34 League games would be a perfect amount as well. Allied to the 12 current Premier Division teams we could add Limerick, Finn Harps, Waterford, Longford, Athlone and a single team from Galway instead of the farce of a set-up in that county at present. Wexford Youths would then miss out but I believe they should join clubs who want reserve teams and then teams like FC Carlow, Tralee Dynamos etc in a newly created division 1 which could be split into two 10 team regional sections with the winners of each section playing off to see who gets promoted to the Premier Division.
The reserve teams would not be allowed to gain promotion even if they won the league but the bigger clubs like us would just be happy to a have a format for reserve team football to keep all players in the squad fresh and keep the best U19s on board after they finish at that level as they might not be ready to go straight to the first team and without a reserve league will end up signing elsewhere or worse still dropping back to Junior or Intermediate football.
FAI Cup: The only competition that I would leave in its current structure, it is a great competition and the magic of the cup gives non-league teams a chance to qualify through the FAI Junior and FAI Intermediate Cups to pit their wits against the league teams. The final being in the Aviva as the last match of the year is also the best way to end the season. The last 2 years have been great for this competition and I hope it continues to grow in stature like it has done recently.
Setanta Cup and League Cup: I would merge the idea of both these competitions and make it one competition. Currently the league cup is pointless, it adds nothing to the season and the prize money is not worthwhile for all the games you must play. The Setanta Cup has brought back the All-Ireland competition which I personally love but people keep saying it hasn’t capture the imagination, I don’t believe that’s right I just think that because season tickets don’t over the games and with 5 other competitions to play in for Rovers the fans prioritise and they just can’t afford to keep shelling out for Setanta Cup games. I would put all the League of Ireland and Irish League teams in an open draw competition, straight knock-out, single leg games and it would run during the current timeframe of the Setanta Cup with a May final. I think amalgamating these two competitions would decrease the needless games clubs currently play, increase attendances, increase interest and sponsorship and increase the prestige for the All-Ireland champions! I think the final carrot for the clubs would be that if both associations asked UEFA if the winner could take a place in the Europa League. Teams would then make a real effort to win the competition it I think it would be a fantastic success.
Leinster Senior Cup: Another competition which people believe is a waste of time and it really does get in the way of preparation for more important games during the season. The competition is historically very important and has a great tradition so my compromise would be to use it as a pre-season tournament played over a week in February with Round of 16 games on a Saturday, Quarter Final games on a Tuesday, Semi-Final on a Thursday and a Final on the following Saturday. It would mean the manager could give games to all the squad whilst getting valuable competitive pre-season games. The competition would be over in advance of the league and I think managers of all the Leinster based teams in the League would be in favour of moving it to this format.
Europe: With the change from 5 in-season competitions to my new idea of 1 pre-season and 3 in-season competitions our clubs would then have a great chance of concentrating on the big European games without fear of a massive fixture back log. The financial implications of a run lack Rovers got last year could be crucial to clubs so the FAI and League of Ireland department should be trying to aide this in any way possible and I feel my new proposed format would do just that.
Hopefully you agree and if so then inform your club and bring this new format to the League of Ireland AGM for clubs to vote on and start the Trim Hoops revolution for a new brighter future for League of Ireland football!!!
Keep on Hooping!