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Dublin: 20 °C Saturday 30 May, 2020

First Division clubs unanimously opposed to inclusion of Premier 'B' teams

The second-tier clubs say they won’t be used as a vehicle for Premier Division sides to develop players.

Drogheda United's Mark Doyle tangling with Graham Burke of Shamrock Rovers during the FAI Cup second-round meeting of the clubs in August.
Drogheda United's Mark Doyle tangling with Graham Burke of Shamrock Rovers during the FAI Cup second-round meeting of the clubs in August.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

THE LEAGUE OF Ireland’s First Division clubs have expressed their disapproval of the prospect of being joined in the second tier of Irish football by ‘B’ teams representing clubs from the Premier Division.

It comes as Shamrock Rovers explore the possibility of entering a second-string side in the First Division for the 2020 season.

In a statement issued today by the League of Ireland First Division Alliance, the nine second-tier clubs — Athlone Town, Bray Wanderers, Cabinteely, Cobh Ramblers, Drogheda United, Galway United, Longford Town, UCD and Wexford — shared their concerns.

The clubs called for the issue to be resolved with their input, adding that they’re satisfied to proceed next season with a First Division comprising just nine teams following the recent demise of Limerick FC.

The statement in full reads: 

“All First Division clubs want to see a swift resolution to the issue of Premier ‘B’ teams and their potential participation in the League of Ireland First Division in 2020. This must involve an open discussion with all First Division clubs and not be resolved behind closed doors.

“We are unanimous in our view that this delivers no benefits to the sporting integrity of the league and, indeed, Irish football. In addition, this sets a dangerous precedent whereby the First Division could be populated by more B teams in future years, thereby further demeaning its existence as a second-tier football league in Ireland.

“Many of our teams have long and rich histories in the League of Ireland. We strive to be stronger as clubs and we all aim to get to the Premier Division. A number of Ireland’s most successful clubs, such as Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers, have had their time in the First Division and have recovered to build strong clubs.

“Our stance protects all clubs, as no club is immune from relegation. The current First Division clubs are not here to help Premier Division clubs develop their players at First Division clubs’ expense.

“We, as clubs, are happy to proceed with a nine-team First Division (despite no consultation). However, we are insistent that there should be four rounds of games in order to deliver value to the fans of all of our clubs and ensure a competitive league. As clubs, we will strive to make this arrangement work.

“We have no objection (when consulted) to a loosening of the rules on overage players playing in U19 teams, as has been proposed. Indeed, we would have no objection to a B league for clubs that wish to participate. Also, clubs can also look to enter B teams in the Leinster Senior League, as some of us already do.

“Each of us owes it to our fans to stand up for our clubs. We want every club to be stronger and for domestic football, in the guise of both divisions, to thrive.”

Fixtures for the 2020 season in the League of Ireland Premier Division were released earlier this month, with the top-flight campaign due to kick off on 14 February.

However, given the current uncertainty over its composition, no First Division schedule has yet been released.

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About the author:

Paul Dollery

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