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Thread: Future of the A Championship

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    Future of the A Championship

    Nearing the end of the third season of the competition, so probably a good time to evaluate in what direction it should be heading. Some of the Premier Division teams (UCD, Bohs, Rovers) and a few First Division teams have used the league wisely for squad development, while others just regard it as a cost burden, with Dundalk, Galway and Pete Mahon calling for it to be scrapped. The senior clubs have all enjoyed degrees of success, either in the league or through cup runs, but need more outings against fellow first-teams if they're to maintain their progress. Three options are likely scenarios:

    1. The participation of Premier teams is made optional, with the gaps filled by new junior/intermediate sides. This is the ideal option, but unfortunately, no new clubs have shown an interest since '09.

    2. The A Championship is left as it is, but a Football League Trophy style competition is introduced for First Division and A Championship teams. The major drawback with this idea is the cluttered First Division schedule, and clubs wouldn't relish playing midweek.

    3. The Premier teams withdraw due to cost burdens, and the five senior teams are absorbed into an enlarged First Division. This would be the worst-case scenario, as it would show real danger for the League as a whole, and in all likelihood the new clubs would get cut adrift at the foot of the table.

    No easy solutions, as can be seen, but the health of the A Championship will be shown by a regular influx of new entrants.

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    Great post, really got me thinking, but failing to arrive at a solution.

    I don't think forcing Premier teams to have a reserve side is a bad thing. Yes, there is an extra cost involved in having a reserve team, but that would be in the greater interest of football in the country. If clubs are forced to put more money into player development at reserve and youth levels, the general level of football throughout would improve. If Premier teams withdraw and no junior/intermediate teams join, the league will cease to be within a few seasons.

    I don't really know if a Football League Trophy would make much of a difference and absorbing the A Championship teams into the League of Ireland would also cause the A Championship to cease to exist and the pathway for teams to progress to the League of Ireland to be cut off.

    The ideal scenario would be for as many other teams as possible to join the A Championship, but if no one has any interest in doing so, it's really difficult. The FAI should try and make the A Championship as attractive as possible for teams to join. What this is, I'm not sure though. The main things they can tempt teams with would be increased prize money (not that there's any money available to distribute to teams) or increased exposure, as well as the obvious pathway through to the League of Ireland.

    I think a full pyramid system should be set up, with leagues like the Leinster and Munster Senior Leagues being set up as feeder leagues to the A Championship, with the winners of those leagues gaining promotion to the A Championship ... whether they want it or not is a different matter altogether. But if the FAI can allow them into the A Championship and give them a grace period of, say, 2 seasons to ensure they can get everything at the club up to scratch in order to attain an A Championship license, that might entice clubs to join.

    A massive problem with this idea is obviously the league seasons, being a summer season for the League of Ireland / A Championship and a winter seasons for the junior leagues. One way around that would be to reduce the length of an A Championship season from 1 year to 6 months (as is the case in several South American leagues), one from Feb - May, one from Aug - Nov. Teams from lower leagues can then join a new league in August. The league tables for these 2 half-seasons can be added together to determine the overall winner, and team to go into a promotion play-off, at the end of the LoI season.

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    Biased against YOUR club pineapple stu's Avatar
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    Premier sides need to have reserve sides; any side calling for it to be scrapped is suffering from remarkable short-sightedness. Just look at how UCD benefitted last year, when winning the First Division with what was essentially our victorious A Team from the year before.

    I think the main problem with the A League is relegation into it. Look what happened to Cobh (admittedly basket-cases already) when they were relegated into it. They had to start afresh with teenagers, suddenly had 16 games over a season instead of 33, and with nobody interested in seeing them up against reserve sides. Mervue and Salthill in the First is in a way a nice cushion for the likes of Athlone, Longford and others in the bottom half of the First Division. What would happen them if they got relegated into it though? That's a question that needs answering in as positive a manner as possible.

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    I think the A Championship format is pretty good as is and dont want to see it tinkered with for a while yet.

    It will be interesting to see if Cobh finish in the top 3 of their group, go through the play off and gain promotion back to the 1st division.
    That for me would be a great endorsement of the A Championship concept, as it would have proven to be an effective fall-back for clubs in trouble, allowing them time to re-group and come back, rather than going out of existence entirely.

    Whether Cobh are ready or good enough to re enter the "proper" league is an entirely different question, and I would imagine they will have the opportunity to turn down promotion should they get it, but my point is at least they will have proven to have had a manageable route back in, and in a relatively short space of time.
    LTID

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    Quote Originally Posted by pineapple stu View Post
    I think the main problem with the A League is relegation into it. Look what happened to Cobh (admittedly basket-cases already) when they were relegated into it. They had to start afresh with teenagers, suddenly had 16 games over a season instead of 33, and with nobody interested in seeing them up against reserve sides.
    No ones really been relegated into the A Championship yet. Cobh financially imploded when in the premier division and would have been out of the LOI entirely without the A Championship to drop into. No one else has dropped down.

    My feeling would be that an established LOI club (for want of a better description) would have a very good chance of getting into a promotion playoff quickly, similar to Cobh this year. A longer season (3 rounds of games maybe) would make it a more attractive division for LOI clubs but could put off new entrants.
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    Quote Originally Posted by culloty82 View Post
    Nearing the end of the third season of the competition, so probably a good time to evaluate in what direction it should be heading. Some of the Premier Division teams (UCD, Bohs, Rovers) and a few First Division teams have used the league wisely for squad development, while others just regard it as a cost burden, with Dundalk, Galway and Pete Mahon calling for it to be scrapped. The senior clubs have all enjoyed degrees of success, either in the league or through cup runs, but need more outings against fellow first-teams if they're to maintain their progress. Three options are likely scenarios:

    1. The participation of Premier teams is made optional, with the gaps filled by new junior/intermediate sides. This is the ideal option, but unfortunately, no new clubs have shown an interest since '09.

    2. The A Championship is left as it is, but a Football League Trophy style competition is introduced for First Division and A Championship teams. The major drawback with this idea is the cluttered First Division schedule, and clubs wouldn't relish playing midweek.

    3. The Premier teams withdraw due to cost burdens, and the five senior teams are absorbed into an enlarged First Division. This would be the worst-case scenario, as it would show real danger for the League as a whole, and in all likelihood the new clubs would get cut adrift at the foot of the table.

    No easy solutions, as can be seen, but the health of the A Championship will be shown by a regular influx of new entrants.
    Good post culloty82.
    I think the A Championship is ok as it is. The main issue is the lack of games. They tried tackling that this season with the A Championship Cup. Teams only played each other once though in the group stages, it should be played in a home and and an away format.
    The A Championship hasn't been given a good chance to find it's way yet. Sporting Fingal would've been a great addition for the first season but they they gained an automatic passage to Division One. Mervue won promotion on merit that season but the Kildare County side who would've been better off in the A Championship kept their Division One place because of Cobh's failure to get a licence. Last season then the relegation/promotion was a non-event when Kildare decided to withdraw from the league altogether.
    None of these two seasons of the A Championship were straight forward and have not helped the promotion of the Championship. If the format goes to plan this season and a promoted side takes their place if victorious and a relegated side takes the drop if defeated, it'll make the competition a stronger competition. In time if a new region like Carlow of Tralee gains promotion, it could be what might encourage other regions to join and show it can be done.
    The A Championship is an interim league. I believe it is good at what it does. Premier managers calling for an end to it are narrow minded. Part of having a Premier licence is fielding an A-side. Some Division One clubs choose to field a side which says a lot.

    In response to the 3 scenarios:
    1. Participation of Premier clubs should remain mandatory. Junior and Intermediate clubs are welcome to join the A Championship already, they are not being blocked in anyway but there is some criteria which righty has to be met for the development of the game. I think clubs will shown interest in time, there is not going to be any overnight success.
    2. The A Championship should be kept as it is. As mentioned above, an A Championship Cup was run this season, maybe that could be tweaked in some ways for more games. There's no need to incude First Division sides with it. There was a League of Ireland First Division Shield once. Most sides there can compete in the League Cup. Generally Cups should have gaps of two divisions, e.g tier 1 & 2, tier 3& 4, one for every division is not really a need.
    3. Premier clubs can not withdraw or they'll be relegated to Division One for not meeting the licencing criteria to hold a Premier licence. The A Championship has to exist as an interim league, with so few senior clubs at the moment, it can only survive in the company of reserve sides for the moment. Absorbing clubs into Division One will not be a solution to anything.
    In time if enough clubs do join the A Championship and meet criteria set down for clubs licences, a Division Two could be created with the A Championship then moving from third to a fourth tier competition. This is a long long way from hapening but I would see this as being the long term goal of the interim league that is the A Championship.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pineapple stu View Post
    Premier sides need to have reserve sides; any side calling for it to be scrapped is suffering from remarkable short-sightedness. Just look at how UCD benefitted last year, when winning the First Division with what was essentially our victorious A Team from the year before.
    I totally agree but the problem Galway United had this season is that having 3 senior clubs already in the city and each of those teams entering a team into the u20 league there simply weren't any players left for us to sign for an A-Team!

    It just ended up being a team made up of our u20s and the odd 1st team player returning from injury or suspended, which ultimately cost us qualification in the u20 league.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schumi View Post
    No ones really been relegated into the A Championship yet. Cobh financially imploded when in the premier division and would have been out of the LOI entirely without the A Championship to drop into. No one else has dropped down.
    My feeling would be that an established LOI club (for want of a better description) would have a very good chance of getting into a promotion playoff quickly, similar to Cobh this year.
    I don't think that's really relevant. My concern is that the drop to playing reserve sides and playing 16 games a season would mean a significant drop off in crowds - and crowds here can drop off quickly and take ages to recover - and possible financial problems if sponsors deem it not worth sponsoring a side in a reserve league. Cobh have been playing in front of 50-100 people the last while, compared to lows of 300-400 in the First Division. How much harm will that have done them medium-term? How much harm will it do any other club relegated into the division? I don't think the FAI have thought about that side at all.


    Quote Originally Posted by JC_GUFC View Post
    I totally agree but the problem Galway United had this season is that having 3 senior clubs already in the city and each of those teams entering a team into the u20 league there simply weren't any players left for us to sign for an A-Team!

    It just ended up being a team made up of our u20s and the odd 1st team player returning from injury or suspended, which ultimately cost us qualification in the u20 league.
    I suppose you could say that you're benefitting even more because your U-20s are being bumped up to a higher level.

    But yeah, that's a bit of a catch alright. Surely the best-run club in the country should be able to sort something though/

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    The games are too few. Only 16 league games this season, that's only fit enough for half a season. The Premier has 4 series and Division One has 3 series. The number of games would want to be in and around 25-30 at least.
    There might be a drop off in crowds with relegation but that is the price for it. If a club beats a club in a relegation/promotion play-off, they deserve their place.
    Last edited by legendz; 06/10/2010 at 6:04 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by legendz View Post
    The games are too few. Only 16 league games this season, that's only fit enough for half a season. The Premier has 4 series and Division One has 3 series. The number of games would want to be in and around 25-30 at least.
    There might be a drop off in crowds with relegation but that is the price for it. If a club beats a club in a relegation/promotion play-off, they deserve their place.
    I think the length of number of games is just right - consider the A Championship a taster for clubs wanting to make the step up to the league proper - shorter and regionalised league keeps the costs down a lot compared to a full season, and we all know how 1st division clubs struggle to finance a full season.

    Also spare a thought for the volunteers who keep the clubs going - same people doing voluntary work for 1st team, A's and 20's in a lot of cases - thats 3 matches a weekend for a few months, after a normal workign week at the regular job. Its something that has to taken into consideration because 1st division clubs and I guess most premier ones wont funtion without the volunteers.
    LTID

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    That's true but the problem is for clubs dropping down a division.

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    Quote Originally Posted by culloty82 View Post
    Nearing the end of the third season of the competition, so probably a good time to evaluate in what direction it should be heading. Some of the Premier Division teams (UCD, Bohs, Rovers) and a few First Division teams have used the league wisely for squad development, while others just regard it as a cost burden, with Dundalk, Galway and Pete Mahon calling for it to be scrapped. The senior clubs have all enjoyed degrees of success, either in the league or through cup runs, but need more outings against fellow first-teams if they're to maintain their progress. Three options are likely scenarios:

    1. The participation of Premier teams is made optional, with the gaps filled by new junior/intermediate sides. This is the ideal option, but unfortunately, no new clubs have shown an interest since '09.

    2. The A Championship is left as it is, but a Football League Trophy style competition is introduced for First Division and A Championship teams. The major drawback with this idea is the cluttered First Division schedule, and clubs wouldn't relish playing midweek.

    3. The Premier teams withdraw due to cost burdens, and the five senior teams are absorbed into an enlarged First Division. This would be the worst-case scenario, as it would show real danger for the League as a whole, and in all likelihood the new clubs would get cut adrift at the foot of the table.

    No easy solutions, as can be seen, but the health of the A Championship will be shown by a regular influx of new entrants.
    You know in a season or two with these clubs established at this level, as the A Championship is an interim league, the FAI should look at if there is any way they could increase the number of sides in the top two tiers. I think the Premier could be expanded to 16 clubs with Division One having 10. In time, if more clubs came through, they could have both being divisions of 16 clubs each. It'd have all clubs playing each other twice.
    Also the League Cup could be more inventive. There's too much of a focus across Europe on League football. If league games were reduced to around a 30 game season, the league cup could be run with a group stage format and at the end of the knock-out stage and final, the winner get Europa League qualification. With a Premier of 16, it'd be Premier clubs only but if Division One expanded to 16 and the Cup format was established, they could expand it to include Division One sides. Generally second tier sides can compete with first tier so it'd be refreshing and new in Europe to have a competition where they compete a bit more during the season.
    It'd only leave one EL place for the league but a 4 team play-off could be held end of season for that final spot.

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    On a point legendz brought up in the promotion thread about using the name Tralee v Kerry, I can't see the name being changed after 50 years, but it does highlight the relationship between senior and junior sides. Twelve months ago, I suggested that more players from the various KDL clubs would have to consider joining Dynamos to further the interests of Kerry soccer, but instead the opposite happened, with players returning to their junior sides. It may well be, as was suggested, that the difference in season calendars is partly to blame, but also there needs to be a co-ordinated strategy between the "A" team, the local junior/intermediate leagues and the individual clubs in the top divisions as inter-town rivalry is ridiculous, when the focus needs to be on growing soccer in the regions.

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    If players aren't joining Dynamos, the question has to be asked is Dynamos the club to represent Kerry and the region? The A Championship is open game for any club to join and good luck to them but the gap is there for a club to be formed for Kerry and to represent Kerry in the league.
    With the way the Kerry League side used to be fielded in the U21 Championship and then the League Cup as well, I was a bit surprised there wasn't a move to create a club Kerry side with the KDL being involved. To further the interests of soccer in Kerry, have the KDL as it is but then a club Kerry side for the better players to play on the national stage.
    The FAI should work with other district leagues as well to see if they can form a club for their regions with the backing of all the clubs. It'd be still open game for clubs themselves to join as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by culloty82 View Post
    Nearing the end of the third season of the competition, so probably a good time to evaluate in what direction it should be heading. Some of the Premier Division teams (UCD, Bohs, Rovers) and a few First Division teams have used the league wisely for squad development, while others just regard it as a cost burden, with Dundalk, Galway and Pete Mahon calling for it to be scrapped. The senior clubs have all enjoyed degrees of success, either in the league or through cup runs, but need more outings against fellow first-teams if they're to maintain their progress. Three options are likely scenarios:

    1. The participation of Premier teams is made optional, with the gaps filled by new junior/intermediate sides. This is the ideal option, but unfortunately, no new clubs have shown an interest since '09.

    2. The A Championship is left as it is, but a Football League Trophy style competition is introduced for First Division and A Championship teams. The major drawback with this idea is the cluttered First Division schedule, and clubs wouldn't relish playing midweek.

    3. The Premier teams withdraw due to cost burdens, and the five senior teams are absorbed into an enlarged First Division. This would be the worst-case scenario, as it would show real danger for the League as a whole, and in all likelihood the new clubs would get cut adrift at the foot of the table.

    No easy solutions, as can be seen, but the health of the A Championship will be shown by a regular influx of new entrants.
    It seems a possibility that 6 Division One clubs could be absorbed into the A Championship. I'm not sure that is the way ahead. The A Championship should remain a third tier even if it means Division One only has 8 clubs.

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    SO you'd have a top tier of 16, a second tier of 8, and a third tier of ??

    Doesn't make much sense
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dodge View Post
    SO you'd have a top tier of 16, a second tier of 8, and a third tier of ??

    Doesn't make much sense
    A top tier of 16 - 30 game season. ( 2 series )
    A 2nd tier of 8 - 28 game season. ( 4 series )
    The 3rd tier being the A Championship. It will have 16 A-sides and at least 3 first teams. It'll be split into a group of 9 and a group of 10.

    An eight team first division is far from ideal. I would hope in time enough sides would join the A Championship with a view then to expanding the first division to 16.

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    The A Championship could still stay on as an intermediate league for those who wish to use it, even if it didn't have any first team sides in it. I doubt the likes of Mullingar Athletic are going to be greatly affected in their decision if Cobh and Tullamore were in the A Championship as opposed to Division 1

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    If there were two divisions of 12 in 2012, there might be some sense in three of the current teams staying put until the further expansion, but a First Division of eight teams would be unsustainable, and you'd be as well off throwing all the teams in in that case.

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    An 8 team division is far from ideal as I say but it's probably the only way Division One can continue if the Premier is expanded within the current structures. The division in the past was once run with 10 clubs played over 3 series giving 27 games. 8 clubs over 4 series gives a 28 game season. It'll only be two less than the 30 game season of a 16 team Premier.

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