At yesterday’s official launch at the Aviva Stadium of the new SSE Airtricity League season, it was announced that the consultative process will be headed by Declan Conroy who led the successful bids to bring the Europa League final and games at Euro 2020 to Dublin.
Explaining the initiative, the FAI’s Director of Competitions Fran Gavin said: “It’s there to gather information and see exactly what people think of the league, its structure, marketing, every aspect of it, good, bad and indifferent. It’s not a tick-the-box exercise.
It’s going to be a serious piece of work. Declan Conroy is very thorough in what he does. We plan to visit every club and then deliver recommendations in a couple of months. If there is to be change of structure, there would need to be at least a season and a half lead into that to allow for club budgeting and promotion and relegation, if that’s the case.”
With key players missing from Friday’s Shamrock Rovers-St Pats game in Tallaght, the carry-over of suspensions from one season to another has become a major talking point in advance of the new league campaign.
But even as he pointed out that the situation is not “unique among leagues in Europe,” Gavin accepted that “it’s something we do have to look at – and I am sure that will be part of the consultation.”
The prize money for the senior domestic game for 2015 remains the same as last year. The total pot (including FAI Cup and EA Sports Cup) is in the region of €430,000, with €100,000 going to the winners of the Premier Division, €50,000 to the FAI Cup winners and €25,000 to the First Division champions.
But Fran Gavin also revealed that FAI Chief Executive John Delaney is currently in negotiation with an additional potential sponsor which, if brought to a successful conclusion, would see extra income added to the prize fund as well as going towards helping clubs fund community projects.
On the subject of Limerick failing to meet the deadline to return to the refurbished Market’s Field, Gavin insisted that the delay would be a temporary one.
“Long-term the picture is very positive,” he said.
“They’ll be in the Markets Field this season. Meantime, work is being done as we speak in Jackman Park. We see that as interim position. It’s not perfect, we agree with that, but we’re looking at a bigger picture with Limerick, which is to stabilise the club and get them back into their home in the Market’s Field. There’s a few hurdles to get over but we’d be confident that they’ll be there by the end of April or early May.
Ahead of next weekend’s big kick-off, the new season’s curtain-raiser takes place today, when holders and 2014 FAI Cup winners St Patrick’s Athletic meet 2014 SSE Airtricity in the President’s Cup final at Oriel Park (3pm).