Airtricity League: 10-club Premier League to be implemented

Readoption of smaller top flight is hoped to be in place for start of 2018 season

One of the headline recommendations of the Conroy report is set to be implemented when the FAI board meets next Tuesday. Among the items on the agenda is the re-adoption of a 10-team Premier League which, the intention is, will be in place for the start of the 2018 season.

In his report, Declan Conroy, a former communications consultant to the FAI, suggested that the smaller top flight, which was previously adopted in 2009 but abandoned after three seasons, be brought in for 2017 but that proved impractical as clubs debated all of the proposed changes in the context of an attempt to secure more of a say for themselves over the general running of the league.

That process continues with those close to it suggesting that progress has been made although it remains to be seen how much ground the association will give on issues like the “participation agreement”, which grants it huge powers to control every aspect of the league and penalise clubs that attempt to challenge its authority in any way.

Weaker rivals

Still, the decision to go for the smaller top flight will please some of the most critical clubs with several having argued that weaker rivals have been slowing the rate of overall progress being made.

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It will, on the other hand, upset some of those in the first division that have argued that the current two-tier system is fundamentally unsustainable and that a single division of 16 clubs is required.

Achieving the reduction will mean that three teams are set to be relegated next season with one coming up from the first division. Some of Conroy’s other proposals relating to the league systems after the changed structure is in place are not expected to be adopted.

The league's director, Fran Gavin, declined to comment on the impending changes, which have already been agreed by a majority of the clubs, but confirmed that the topic is up for a decision at Tuesday's board meeting.

“There’s a meeting of the FAI board on Tuesday where the structure of the league is being discussed,” he said. “We’ll have decisions on fixtures and that before the break.”

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Industry and Employment Correspondent at The Irish Times