/ Soccer

Alan Cawley's Airtricity League Blog

Updated: Wednesday, 26 Sep 2012 17:27 | Comments

First Divison side Limerick, pictured in action against Manchester City earlier in the year, are on course for promotion and a league-winning prize of €25,000
First Divison side Limerick, pictured in action against Manchester City earlier in the year, are on course for promotion and a league-winning prize of €25,000

By Alan Cawley

There is a predictability about Irish football at the moment.

The lack of imagination, enthusiasm for vision and the future is extremely worrying.

Last week we learned of the ridiculous decision of the FAI to keep top-flight football in this country restricted to a 12-team league and the First Division remaining will have seven clubs, with the invitation for new applicants.

It is negative, dreary, and at a time when the need to think outside the box is so needed, we look at that predictable outlook of going from crisis to crisis.

I still believe there is massive potential for top flight football in Ireland. There is plenty to work with, and the right formula could make something special happen.

One major league, consisting of 16 or 17 teams, which would lead to a geographical spread and firstly give us a league that is really national.

At this stage there is not much to lose. If it doesn't work the 12-team option will always be there, and at least then First Division sides can say they were given a fair chance.

From speaking to ex-players and most importantly current players, I know it is something that they would love.

It would be something new and would breathe new life back into Irish football, which is badly needed.

"Familiarity is killing the interest because the fans are also fed up of watching the same players and teams week in and week out" -  Alan Cawley

The problem you have with the current set up is that it is saturated with Dublin-based teams and because of this, clubs end up facing each other four and five times a season all within a few miles in the capital.

Familiarity is killing the interest because the fans are also fed up of watching the same players and teams week in and week out.

Imagine a smaller regional club, the ones we need to grow, such as Finn Harps for example knowing that Shamrock Rovers or Sligo Rovers were coming to town just once a year and the buzz that would be created.

It would be so easy to promote the game locally hence more people attending the games, creating more revenue, and for once making these so called smaller clubs feel as important to the league as a Shamrock Rovers or a Sligo Rovers.

In the current set-up, it is only casting these clubs further and further to one side and in doing so discouraging them from Irish football rather than making them feel like an integral part of it.

It will kill the likes of Harps, Athlone Town, Waterford United and eventually we will be stripped down to a small number of teams.

Young players have nowhere to go for senior football, the country loses players (even jobs) once more and the game suffers.

I am not surprised the First Division is currently referred to as "The Graveyard" and for me going ahead with a ridiculous seven team league next year is only reaffirming this title.

If familiarity is bad in the top flight, well do the maths here.

Seven teams playing 30 games each would mean each team facing each other five times. Or just leave it at four rounds, and have just 12 home games a year.

I am even getting confused writing that, it is just ridiculous.

The only thing I can see happening in that format is rather than clubs expanding and growing you will find more and more Monaghan United cases and teams going out of business.

The approach from the powers towards the League of Ireland is dismissive and lazy and I do not believe that it can not be refreshed and improved.

The game here has never had more coverage on our television screens with live games being shown regularly by RTÉ and Setanta plus also our weekly highlights show on MNS. Next year will see record coverage.

Yet the promotion of the League from the FAI is lacklustre. Radio adverts, TV, billboards? Not our sport.

The GAA season is just finishing and their promotion of their game, well there is no point in comparing them.

Why can't I see a billboard in Dublin city centre of Mark Quigley or Gary Twigg rather than Bernard Brogan?

What is stopping this? Money? There is no problem paying silly money to a chief executive or a national team manager, it can be found.

I am very passionate about Irish football, as are so many other people in this country, and I am sick of us always being the odd one out and the butt of people’s jokes.

Those two massive salaries, albeit slightly reduced now, make another fine comparison when it comes to a marketing and promotion budget for the domestic game.

There remains a lot of great talent currently playing in our league but it is about time the FAI stepped up to the plate and started shouting about it a bit more and showing it off.

Kenny Cunningham offered his perspective on MNS in a simple form: "The chink of light in the whole thing is do we have a product to sell? I think we do in terms of the quality of players that we produce in the league, I think the quality of coaching is improving also.

"If we can get that at a more professional level as Pat (Dolan) suggested, then fantastic. Keep these quality players in the league, grow, because I think the product is something I would pay to watch."

The formation of a 16-team league combined with a proper promotional campaign plus all the TV coverage available makes me excited just thinking about it.

Irish football needs to lead and not just follow. The current path will follow a very bleak end.

User contributions and/or comments do not, unless specifically stated, represent the views of RTÉ.ie or RTÉ.
Click here for Terms of use
Powered by NewsWhip