A number of years ago Declan Jordan wrote a piece on this blog that offered a radical proposal for change in the League of Ireland. Declan highlighted that the League is certainly not averse to change. We have addressed this issue here and outline the multitude of changes League organisers have implemented in order to improve the domestic game.
Yet again, the League will change in structure for the 2018 Season. The current 12 team Premier Division and 8 team 1st Division (2nd tier) will become two leagues of 10 teams from next March. This means three teams will be relegated from the Premier Division and one team promoted from the 1st Division next month.
Below is a screenshot of the current standing in the League from teams 6 to 12. While it is unlikely Bohemians will be relegated, all clubs from Limerick down could be playing in the second tier of Irish football next season.
All three have also been runners-up in 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2012. It is hard to find a comparable league in the world, with such a quick cycle of ‘rise and decline’. Sadly, this is the reality for most League of Ireland clubs.
It might now be worth considering whether the open-system (promotion and relegation) is appropriate for the League. Do the likes of Drogheda, Sligo and St Pat's need to be punished for poor performance this season? Absolutely not. In fact, they require the opposite.
While the open-system does result in some excitement for fans critics rightly suggest that it leads to financial instability and underinvestment in capital. Clubs simply survive week-to-week, hoping to pay the wage bill, and neglect long-term capital projects such as stadium expansion, training ground improvements, etc.
The open-system in Ireland simply copies that of other leagues. It is time to think differently about our league. A single division might be a step in the right direction. The current scenario of punishing failure is certainly not the answer.