In 2007 the League of Ireland (SSE Airtricity League) merged with the Football Association of Ireland (FAI). This partnership is due to continue until the end of 2016. In March, the FAI announced that a consultation process will take place to get the views of all the key stakeholders in the league and to discuss ways to progress our domestic game. This process is headed by Declan Conroy who is quoted as saying that "we are seeking to understand how we can get more people to our matches every weekend".
I think all League of Ireland fans would agree with Declan Conroy's sentiment. The problem, as I see it, is that many attempts have already been made to get more fans through the turnstiles and improve our game. To say the League of Ireland structure has been tumultuous over the years would be understatement. The table below shows the League of Ireland structure, points system and fixture calendar from 1971 to 2014.
Over approximately 45 years the League of Ireland has witnessed two point-system experiments (1981-1983), breaking the Premier Division in two to have a top and bottom six (1993-1995), new divisions (1985,2008), play-off systems inaugurated and tweaked (1992), changes to the amount of fixtures played per season and a shift to Summer Soccer (2003). The majority of these rule changes were intended to change the incentives clubs faced and encourage an attacking philosophy.
Let’s hope this consultation process goes well - looking at the recent history, I think it's fair to say the domestic league needs stability. Previously, Declan Jordan forwarded a thought provoking proposal to radically transform the League of Ireland.
*For the 2007 LoI season an Independent Assessment Group established by the Football Association of Ireland determined which clubs would enter the Premier League and First Division. Although there was a playoff in the 2006 season, which Dundalk F.C won, the club was not selected to enter the 2007 Premier League. Thus, despite the play-off occurring in 2006, the result had no bearing on the teams in the Premier Division for subsequent year.
**Years where an odd number of teams competed in the LoI meant that a team did not complete the season after they were accepted to enter. In 2001-2002 St. Francis withdrew from the first division before the start of the season. In 2006 Dublin City disbanded during the season for financial reasons and there results were erased. In 2011 Drogheda United were reinstated to the Premier League, despite that they were relegated the previous year, as Sporting Fingal withdrew from the League in February 2010. In June 2012 Monaghan United withdrew and their results were erased. As was the case with Dublin City, the withdrawal was associated with financial difficulties. These represent unique cases as previously teams that withdrew before the start of the season may have been replaced, as was the case for the 1996-1997 first division that saw St.James Gate F.C replaced by St. Francis F.C before the league commenced.