It is rare that football gets nudged to the side in terms of international sport but this weekend was an exception with almost every kind of activity from Tennis to Gaelic Games, Cricket to Netball and Rowing to Rugby 7’s fighting for attention.
Nevertheless, this was a weekend where those planning the future of the SSE Airtricity League of Ireland got down to some of the hard work needed to plan for a brighter future.
Representatives of the 20 clubs together with the FAI and those who would see the League changed gathered at Abbottstown and spent Saturday and Sunday exploring the different ways in which the League was seen in its present form and might be changed over the coming seasons.
Just after 5-30 yesterday, as Croke Park was emptying and Novak Djokovic was battling Roger Federer in South West London, the FAI released a statement which said that a working group had been formed which was charged with “develop(ing) a new strategy for professional league football in Ireland.”
All 20 of the clubs playing in the Premier and First Divisions were present through the weekend as were representatives of the Professional Footballers’ Association of Ireland, Supporters Groups, referees and the newly formed League Managers’ Association of Ireland.
Niall Quinn and members of his Ireland Visionary Group, as well as Kieran Lucid who is proposing an All Ireland League were able to present their thoughts on how the domestic game might develop and both of those will be considered in greater detail by the working group.
This has now been charged with looking at all possibilities and formulating a strategy by the end of the 2019 playing season.
It’s a very tight deadline given the fact of the EGM taking place next weekend and then the critical AGM of the FAI happening in Meath on July 27th.
The working group will consist of representatives from Cork City, Derry City, Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers from the top flight, and from Bray Wanderers, Drogheda United and Galway United from the First division.
“This has been a very productive and welcome weekend for all concerned,” said FAI General Manager, Noel Mooney.
“Many challenges and opportunities for professional football in Ireland were discussed and consensus reached that it was time to consider our future working closely with our key stakeholders.”
“An important new chapter for the game here has arrived and we are all focused on doing the right things for Irish football.”
“We look forward to facilitating the working group over the coming weeks as we prioritise the SSE Airtricity League of Ireland as part of a new FAI.”
“The meeting also agreed to seek further details from both the Niall Quinn and Kieran Lucid groups. We are looking at a new plan for Irish football and this is something that excites us at the FAI.”
This is now another element which will be ongoing throughout the debates which will dominate the next two weekends on a new governance structure around the FAI.
Concern has been expressed over the rapid pace at which change is being sought while so many things have yet to crystallise in the way things are ant the moment and have been in the past, but at least there is action underway and questions being asked to get under the skin of the various different proposals that are on or about to be placed on the table.
Image Credit: Eoin Noonan, Sportsfile