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FAI’s consultation process is better late than never but big decisions need to be made

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Great news, after all these years we finally get a consultation process announcement from the FAI about our league.

I thought it was an April fool’s joke in March! Was I hearing things?  It’s only about 25 years too late in my opinion, but better late than never.

When I returned from the UK in 1995 I was led to believe that the league was in a healthy state back then. I signed on with Shelbourne under the management of Eoin Hand and bought into Eoin’s vision of full time football in this Country. Six months into this contract I was on the train up North to play for Crusaders. Having played full time football for the previous 15 seasons it was a shock to my system to say the least.

The news that we now have a consultant who has worked with FIFA, UEFA, and the FAI in various projects in Ireland and Europe sounds great, but where does he start. A question? Who have you got to help out? If it is you alone, you certainly have your work cut out for you. But even if you have a small army of recruiters, you will probably still have your work cut out for you. It’s a big task. By now, though, you should know who you are looking for, whether they speak for themselves or for organisations, and how many people you need.

What’s the Strategy? Who will implement the plan of action?  It is important that the task of developing the plan is approached with serious consideration and attention to detail?  In my opinion this should be in the form of a step-by-step plan, and should outline exactly what needs to be done, in what time frame, for how much of an investment and by which responsible party.

In all the years I have been involved in the beautiful game as a player, coach and manager (that’s only 23 years) I have never been asked to express my opinion on the league or any aspects concerning the makeup of the league. Hard to believe but I can honestly say that I’m not the only stakeholder that’s experienced this isolation. In 1998 I remember asking the FAI coaching department why we hadn’t set up a coaches club in Ireland.  I never got an answer so I organised my own coaching clinics by inviting clubs like Ajax, Liverpool, Clube Bruges and Feyenoord to share their philosophies on the game. Over 120 coaches turned up for each of these seminars from all across Ireland. The Coaches were hungry for knowledge and ideas on the game and the feedback was very positive. To my amazement I was asked by a certain high profile individual to stop these seminars at once. Progress indeed!!

As Manager of Bohemians, in 2012 coming back from a European game in Iceland I asked the league to switch a game with Martin Russell’s UCD team from a Sunday to Monday night to give the player’s time to recover physically and mentally from the trip. Martin Russell agreed no problem but the league never budged. I asked the league at the time how many games had I asked to switch that season and the reply was one. I wondered why the communication lines broke down after that comment. To be fair to the FAI, I wholeheartedly support the consultation process and hope that all stakeholders are listened too in a consistent, objective, courteous and professional manner.

For what it’s worth, here are my recommendations to improve our product.

  • One league to stop teams playing each other too often. When I played in the league I got fed up with meeting the same team over and over again.
  • We need improvements to all Stadia across the country to make them more family friendly.  You take your life into your own hands visiting the toilet facilities at some clubs. Seats in stadiums have discoloured and if it’s raining you will need to bring a good brolly.

  • Shared Facilities if possible. (It works in Rome, and costs can be shared by both Clubs).

  • I would start all games on a Saturday afternoon’s at 3 pm. This would stop the confusion around dates and times of games and would allow the whole family to experience the match at a reasonable hour of the day. I know some midweek matches could stand, but only for cup matches.

  • An up to date Youth Development Model with KPIs included to measure progression each year introduced to all clubs to improve player talent across the Country.

  • Social media promotion of all games with you tube clips of previous goals shown prior to fixtures.

  • All injured Players from each club to meet fans/ kids for half time discussion on all aspects of the game.

  • A professional managers and coaches association set up to liaise with FAI, Airtricity League and Referee Association particularly on issues that affect the game.

  • Bonus points scored for extra goals. (It works in Rugby).

  • Soccer show that talks to players, coaches and managers and not just media personnel.

  • Link to Major Retail Outlets for discounts on tickets and sport goods.

Aaron Callaghan

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