Niall Quinn: League of Ireland changes were 'least disruptive' option

Niall Quinn believes the tweaked Airtricity League format is not perfect but that it is the “least disruptive” of the options that were on the table.
Niall Quinn: League of Ireland changes were 'least disruptive' option
FAI interim deputy CEO Niall Quinn claimed the tweaked format offers clarity to the country's 19 clubs ahead of a July 31st resumption. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
FAI interim deputy CEO Niall Quinn claimed the tweaked format offers clarity to the country's 19 clubs ahead of a July 31st resumption. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Niall Quinn believes the tweaked Airtricity League format is not perfect but that it is the “least disruptive” of the options that were on the table.

It will, he claimed, offer clarity to the country's 19 clubs ahead of a July 31st resumption.

Two rounds of fixtures, adding up to 18 games in total, will now be played in this year's Premier Division. That is half the usual number and those games already played prior to the shutdown will contribute toward the total and final points tallies.

The result is that some clubs now have as few as 13 league games left to play, although Quinn also confirmed that the FAI Cup will take place with the quarter-finals being held after the league campaigns come to an end.

The most contentious issue of all was that of promotion and relegation. One club will be promoted automatically with another going down. The club that finishes second from bottom in the top tier will face the winner of a play-off series among those who finish between second to fifth in the First Division.

The final decision was made by the National League Executive Committee (NLEC) after the clubs failed to come to an agreement on all the issues concerned after weeks of talks. In all, there were four options on the table from which to choose.

"The NLEC decided today to go with what is known as option one, which was effectively the least disruptive offering that was on the table,” said Quinn who is interim deputy CEO of the FAI. "So what it means for football, I guess, is that there's clarity in the air now and we know a lot more about what resuming is going to look like. So that clarity is important.”

The decision has still to be ratified by the FAI board and, while Quinn emphasised that all opinions had been taken into account, the promotion/relegation decision was not one the majority of Premier Division clubs wanted.

"At the top, everything is as it is, and the champions will be the ones who finish first and they will qualify for the Champions League, and the other European qualifiers will qualify as normal,” Quinn added.

"Down at the bottom, it's exactly as was planned initially. There will be relegation for the team that finishes 10th and last in the Premier League, and they will be replaced by the champions of the First Division for next season.

"And the team that finishes second last, in ninth, will end up in a shoot-out with the winners of the play-off from spot second, third, fourth and fifth from the First Division.

So it's quite exciting that that is in the air, and while it's not entirely perfect to where all the clubs wanted to be after the five matches, the clarity of it all means we can all kick on and concentrate on the football side of it, and looking forward to those games will be quite a finish to the season.

"But that's good. To be talking this way feels pretty good.”

There was a concern at one point that the FAI Cup would be sacrificed to the new normal but the decision has been made that the quarter-finals will be played after the league campaign closes and that those eight sides involved will be supported financially in light of the extra costs involved.

“We are certainly one step closer and one big step closer," said Quinn. "There has been a lot of complexities along the way. It started off with a nervousness around resumption for medical reasons and we had a lot of work to do on that.

“Then, of course, financial reasons but we managed to get through that problem and now the nitty-gritty of things like promotion and relegation, the length of the season, how clubs can manage, those who are in Europe, getting players back training.

“It's been one step at a time but today feels like it is a big step.”

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