FAI League of Ireland 2007 season


FAI League of Ireland 2007 season

The new FAI eircom League of Ireland, consisting of both the FAI eircom League of Ireland Premier and the FAI eircom League of Ireland First Division, kicked off in March, 2007 for its inaugural campaign. The competition remained under the sponsorship of Irish telecommunications company, eircom.

Rather than being decided by the usual process of relegation and promotion, the participants of the respective Premier and First Divisions for 2007 were chosen by way of a ranking process carried out by an Independent Assessment Group appointed by the Football Association of Ireland.

As the league is a revamped continuation of the League of Ireland, Shelbourne F.C. should have been the defending champions, having won the old title in November, 2006. However, they were prevented from doing so after the FAI decided that the club should be relegated from the top division for financial reasons prior to the beginning of the 2007 season. While their participation in the Premier Division was removed due to extreme financial trouble at the club, which had been present throughout the 2006 season, the title they won that season was not stripped from them. [" [http://www.uefa.com/footballeurope/news/kind=2/newsid=508389.html Debts cost Shelbourne dear] ", "Aidan Fitzmaurice, UEFA.com", 20 February 2007.]

Pre-season developments

The Independent Assessment Group

On June 29, 2006 the clubs of the League of Ireland had voted to accept John Delaney's proposals for change in the league system.fn|1 [cite news|title=eircom League clubs back FAI merger|date=2006-06-29|publisher= RTÉ.ie|url=http://www.rte.ie/sport/2006/0629/eircomleague.html] The league make-up for 2007 would be decided by an Independent Assessment Group chaired by former FAI President Des Casey and appointed by the FAI. This group was to work from a set of pre-determined criteria for selection, taking factors such as past performance, current well-being and future development plans into account. Initially former footballer Niall Quinn was a member of the group before becoming chairman of Sunderland FC.

The decision of the Group was finally announced on 11 December in the Citywest Hotel, Dublin. [cite news|title=FAI name the 12 clubs who will participate in the Premier Division|date=2006-12-11|publisher=FAI.ie|url=http://www.fai.ie/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1543] The existing 21 clubs of the old League of Ireland that took part in the process were ranked on the basis of points scored as a result of their achievements over the past five seasons on the pitch and how they measured up against specific criteria covering areas such as infrastructure, governance, strategic planning, finance, youth development and marketing. Twelve football clubs were chosen to participate in the Premiership. A large quantity of speculation surrounded this decision. It was seen as certain that Shelbourne (due to their past successes and despite their financial uncertainty -, Derry City, Drogheda United, Cork City, Bohemians, St. Patrick's Athletic, Longford Town, Sligo Rovers,Shamrock Rovers and UCD would feature. Bray Wanderers were next in line. That left one remaining place which was expected to be filled by either Waterford United, Galway United or Dundalk. Out of these three Galway United were selected to participate.

Galway had issued a statement on their website prior to the official announcement that claimed they would be playing in the Premiership but the club then said that it was only a conclusion they themselves reached after carrying out their own assessment of criteria. Their geographical status and facilities strengthened their case for inclusion.

The final selection sparked controversy in Dundalk. Despite the fact that Dundalk FC had won what they perceived to be or believed should have been the annual promotion/relegation Play-Off, and what would have been a promotion/relegation game in any other normal season, in November 2006, they were one of the teams omitted from the 2007 FAI Premiership and were, instead, chosen to play in the FAI First Division. Dundalk, however, argued that they had a right to compete in the Premiership following their Play-Off defeat of Waterford United. "What was the point of the league taking our players and fans all the way down to Waterford if it counted for nothing?", questioned one official even though they were one of the clubs to vote for the FAI's new proposals earlier in 2006. Dundalk's protests had no real weight, however, as the 2006 season's game had never been billed as a promotion/relegation fixture. Furthermore, the claim that the game counted for nothing was technically incorrect - the Play-Off's purpose was solely to decide which teams were to be positioned in 12th and 13th place within the overall season standings of all 21 clubs for the purpose of the IAG's process and their dispensing of assessment points, and thus, it did contribute points to Dundalk's final assessment tally. However, that was little consolation. The difference between the two positions of 12th and 13th was a mere point anyway, which in the grand scheme of things did not make a significant difference to the final decision of the IAG. Although the game did count for something, it counted for very little and verged on pointlessness. Meanwhile, Galway United, who finished the season in 3rd place behind Dundalk's 2nd were chosen for the Premiership. After a subsequent meeting with the FAI, Dundalk's CEO, Gerry Matthews, expressed his satisfaction with the process, which he viewed to be above board. [cite news|title=FAI welcomes Dundalk's satisfaction with IAG process|date=2006-12-23|publisher=FAI.ie|url=http://www.fai.ie/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1568]

Ranking system

Entry into the FAI Premier Division was determined by the ranking in points of the former League of Ireland teams by the Independent Assessment Group conforming to a number of selection criteria. The twelve highest ranked teams were entered into the FAI Premiership for 2007, while the remainder made up the FAI First Division on condition of each holding a relevant participation licence.

Entry criteria and points allocation

There was a 50-50 sporting/non-sporting breakdown to reinforce the FAI's position that on and off-pitch standards were of equal importance.

League

Rules

Procedure

There are twelve participating clubs in the Premiership and ten participating clubs in the First Division for 2007. During the course of the 2007 season (which will last from March to November) each Premiership club will play the respective others three times. A pre-season draw decided which clubs will have the benefit of two home games in these matches. First Division sides will play each other four times throughout the season - two games at home and two games at the stadium of the opposition. Each team in the Premiership will play 33 matches in total during a season, while those in the First Division will play 36 games. Teams will receive three points for a win and one point for a draw. No points will be awarded for a loss. Teams will be ranked by total points, then goal difference and then goals scored. If there is equality in points, goal difference and goals for tallies, the clubs involved must partake in a play-off to decide their finishing positions. At the end of the season, the club with the most points in their division will be crowned as champion of that division. The lowest placed team in the Premiership is automatically relegated into the First Division and the top team from the First Division will be automatically promoted to the Premiership. In addition, the 2007 winner of the First Division will have a once-off play-off with the winners of the FAI League Cup for a Setanta Cup place. Furthermore, the second-last placed team in the Premiership will play either the second-best or third-best placed team in the First Division in a two-legged promotion/relegation play-off after the second-placed and third-placed teams play each other in a single play-off match. The second-placed team in this pairing will have home advantage with the winner of the game having the chance to play the 11th-place finisher in the Premiership both at home and away (with the First Division side being given the choice of home advantage in the first or second leg of the series). The aggregate winner of this two-legged tie will play the following 2008 season in the Premiership with the loser resigned to playing in the First Division. The team that finishes last in the First Division must re-apply to the FAI for membership to the following season's league.

Qualification for 2008 European competitions

The top team in the Premiership will qualify for the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round and must win three two-legged knockout ties against higher seeded and stronger opposition with progression in order to enter the group phase. The second-placed team qualifies for the UEFA Cup first qualifying round. They, similarly, must go through three two-legged knockout ties in order to enter the Second Round group phase of that competition. The third-placed team enter the Intertoto Cup. There is another UEFA Cup first qualifying round slot reserved for the winners of the domestic FAI Cup. If it were to happen that a cup-winner has already qualified for the UEFA Cup via the league, the cup-win qualification will take prominence and the league-place qualification will be transferred to the next team who finished below them in the league. This, in turn, will also cause a downward transfer of the Intertoto Cup qualification place to the next team in line. However, if the case is that the cup-winner has already won the league, that team will take a place in the UEFA Champions League qualifying rounds, by way of its league-win, and the losing team in the FAI Cup final will take the UEFA Cup spot on offer from that competition.

Prize funds

Between the National League, FAI Cup, FAI League Cup and the Setanta Cup a prize fund in excess of €1 million will be available. The FAI will be investing a total of €803,000 for prize funds in 2007. The prize fund for the Premiership in 2007 will reach €450,000 with the winner being awarded €225,000. The First Division winner's prize fund in 2007 will be €50,000, with €100,000 available in total. The following table gives a more detailed breakdown of the prize funds. [" [http://www.derrycityfc.net/season/07/news/displaystory.php?storyid=46 Prize Money Details Released ] ", "derrycityfc.net", 29 July, 2007. Retrieved on 29 July 2007.]

P = Matches played; W = Matches won; D = Matches drawn; L = Matches lost; F = Goals for; A = Goals against; GD= Goal difference; Pts = Points
C = Champions; P = Playoffs R = Relegated;
fnb|3Longford Town deducted 6 points for failing to meet licensing requirements.cite web | title = Longford Town deducted 6 points|work = RTÉ Sport, 16 May 2007 | url = http://www.rte.ie/sport/2007/0516/longford.html?rss]
*FAI Cup winners gain second available UEFA Cup place. This may be transferred to next best-placed team in league if Cup winners also finish in UEFA Cup qualification spot in league, while it may be given to Cup runners-up if Cup winners gain UEFA Champions League place via league.

First Division

Table

fnb|5Includes 2 with fc|Dundalk

FAI eircom National League Clubs in Europe 2007

UEFA Champions League

Shelbourne F.C. looked set to qualify for the preliminary rounds of the UEFA Champions League by way of winning the 2006 league. However by the beginning of the season their entry was cast into doubt due to financial problems at the club and worries that the club would fail to be granted a UEFA licence. Should they have failed to be awarded a licence, Derry City F.C. would have taken their place as a seeded team in the first qualifying round draw. With the future looking grim, Shelbourne's board came to a decision itself on the issue and announced that it would opt out of competing in the competition in the interests of the league and the co-efficient it had built up over the prior years. This made way for Derry City to compete as runners-up in the league. They were defeated, however, by Armenian Champions FC Pyunik in the First Qualifying Round. The first leg at the Brandywell finished goalless while Derry City succumbed to 2-0 loss in the second leg in Armenia to go out 2-0 on aggregate.

UEFA Cup

Derry City F.C. initially qualified for the UEFA Cup after winning the FAI Cup in 2006. However, after they took Shelbourne's place in the Champions League, St. Patrick's Athletic, as 2006 FAI Cup runners-up to Derry, took their place in the competition for 2007. Drogheda United F.C., who had originally qualified for the UEFA Intertoto Cup, also qualified for the UEFA Cup despite having finished in third position in the final league table. At first they had taken the slot reserved for the second-placed finishers, who were Derry City, as Derry had already qualified via the FAI Cup and transferred their slot. However, with Shelbourne opting out of European competition for 2007, Drogheda United where, in essence, the second-best finished team of the European qualifiers anyway. St Patrick's Athletic were eliminated in the First Qualifying Round. They drew the first leg at home 0-0 but were resoundingly beaten 5-0 away from home in the second leg against Odense BK. Drogheda United came through their First Qualifying Round tie by beating A.C. Libertas 4-1 on aggregate. They did not progress any further, though, as they were defeated by Swedish side Helsingborgs in the next round. The first leg finished 1-1 at United Park with Henrik Larsson netting for the Swedes and Eamon Zayed scoring a second half equaliser for Drogheda. The second leg was goalless at half-time but three goals in the second half for Helsingborgs put them through at the expense of Drogheda by an aggregate score of 4-1.

UEFA Intertoto Cup

Cork City F.C. qualified for the UEFA Intertoto Cup by way of finishing in fourth place in the final 2006 league table and having the entry transferred onto them from Drogheda, who initially had a UEFA Cup place transferred onto them. Shelbourne's withdrawal had no substantial effect on Cork City's qualification, other than promoting them to being the third-best finished team of the European qualifiers. Cork City won 2-1 on aggregate against Icelandic team Valur in the First Round. In the Second Round, though, Hammarby IF knocked out the Rebel Army by the aggregate scoreline of 2-1 after a 1-1 draw at Turner's Cross and a 1-0 victory for the Swedish side at Råsunda.

2007 UEFA coefficient

The FAI National League's UEFA coefficient accumulates to a total value of 6.498 as of the 2006/07 European season. The 2007/08 season is currently in progress but all League of Ireland have been eliminated. The coefficient achieved this season is 1.000 [" [http://www.xs4all.nl/~kassiesa/bert/uefa/data/method3/ccoef2008.html 2008 coefficient] ", "xs4all.nl", 31 August, 2007. Retrieved on 31 August 2007.] which means their overall coefficient will now rise to 7.332 [" [http://www.xs4all.nl/~kassiesa/bert/uefa/data/method3/crank2008.html 2008 Country Ranking] ", "xs4all.nl", 31 August, 2007. Retrieved on 31 August 2007.] .

2007 national league UEFA ranking

Ranking going into 2007-08 European season:
* 33 flagicon|Finland Finland
* 34 flagicon|Moldova Moldova
* 35 flagicon|Ireland Ireland
* 36 flagicon|Georgia Georgia
* 37 flagicon|Liechtenstein Liechtensteinfn|6:* [http://www.xs4all.nl/~kassiesa/bert/uefa/data/method3/crank2007.html "Full list"]

Further information

With the financial collapse of Shelbourne after having won the 2006 title and the prospect of the club representing the eircom League in the UEFA Champions League for the 2007-08 European season, there were worries that their participation and representation might have proven detrimental to the league's co-efficient, which had been steadily improving since the mid-2000s - so much so, that Shelbourne and Derry City were to be entered into the preliminary qualifying round draws for that season's competitions as seeded teams.

With the commencement of the 2007 season approaching, however, it began to look increasingly unlikely that Shelbourne would in fact be permitted by the FAI to represent the league in Europe after the association revoked the club's Premier Division licence and resigned it to competing in the 2007 FAI First Division. It was also uncertain as to whether Shelbourne would be awarded with a required UEFA licence. By March, the Shelbourne board came to a decision to withdraw from the competition.

On 17 April, 2007, five eircom League clubs were awarded UEFA licences by the FAI's First Instance Committee. The clubs to be awarded with licences were Derry City, St. Patrick's Athletic, Drogheda United, Cork City and UCD. UCD received a licence as they were still in with a chance of competing in the UEFA Cup by way of Ireland being awarded a place via the UEFA Fair Play ranking. [" [http://rte.ie/sport/2007/0417/eircomleague.html UEFA licences for five Irish clubs] ", "RTÉ.ie", 17 April, 2007.] However Ireland did not score the required the points total for UCD to be entered in the draw. [" [http://www.uefa.com/newsfiles/536640.pdf Sweden earn UEFA Cup place via Fair Play ranking] ", "UEFA.com", 9 May, 2007.]

FAI League Cup

The first two rounds of the competition were drawn on a regional basis with the Third Round being the first 'open' draw. Whilst all of the league's European entrants for 2007-08 received a bye into the Second Round, the First Round saw the Premier Division's Longford Town go out 5-4 on penalties to Athlone Town of the First Division after the tight game went to extra-time and finished 1-1. Meanwhile, First Division leaders, Dundalk were knocked out by Shamrock Rovers in a game which finished 1-0. Bohemians knocked out their fellow Premier Division counterparts, Bray Wanderers by a 3-1 score-line to set up an all-Dublin Second Round tie with Shelbourne, who received a bye as they were still officially classed as European entrants at the time of the draw. Bohemians won this clash 2-0, with former Shelbourne player Glen Crowe netting both of the goals.

The Quarter-Finals were played on the 2nd and 3rd of July. The results were as follows

U.C.D. 2-1 Finn Harps

Bohemians 3-2 Cork City

Cobh Ramblers 1-2 Derry City

Shamrock Rovers 1-0 Athlone Town

The first Semi-Final took place on Aug 7 2007 with the result being:

Bohemians 1-0 Shamrock Rovers [http://www.irishfootballonline.com/report.php?match_id=4088 Report]

The second semi-final took place on Aug 28 2007 the result was:

Derry City 3-0 U.C.D. [http://www.irishfootballonline.com/news/7215.html Report]

Final

footballbox
date = 2007-10-09
20:00
team1 = Derry City |score = 1 – 0 (a.e.t)
report = [http://www.fai.ie/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2490 (report) ]
team2 = Bohemians
goals1 = McHugh goal|97
goals2 =
stadium = The Brandywell, Derry City
attendance = 7,700
referee = D Hanney (Dublin).

The 2007 winner of the FAI League Cup will contest a play-off with the winner of the 2007 First Division for a 2008 Setanta Cup place.

Off-field issues

Media coverage

Broadcasting partners of the FAI - Setanta Sports, TG4 and RTÉ - agreed to televise over 50 live games in the 2007 season. The agreed games included FAI National League games, as well as Setanta Cup matches and FAI Cup matches. TV3 also agreed to continue showing their highlights programme, "eircom League Weekly", on a Monday night each week. Fans hoped that the newly-revamped league along with extra funds being spent on publicity by the FAI would warrant a new era of attention being given to the competition. Nevertheless the unpopular late Monday night slot of 11:30 p.m. reserved for "eircom League Weekly" was unchanged and TV3 planned to continue airing the programme at this time.

FIFA's two-club ruling

A significant number of players, who had already played with two clubs within the year prior to the season's kick-off, were left ineligible to play for their clubs until July at the beginning of the season as FIFA's rules, or, in particular, Article 5.3 of FIFA’s Regulations for the Status and Transfer of Players, stated that no player could play for more than two different clubs between 1 July of one season and 30 June of the following year. The highest-profile members of the group of ten were the Irish internationally-capped midfielders Gareth Farrelly and Colin Healy. Both players had agreed two-year deals with Cork City but their clearance failed to come through from FIFA due to the fact that they had each been registered to two other clubs since 1 July 2006. Among the other Premier Division players hit with the ruling were: Bray Wanderers midfielder Alan Cawley; Derry City striker Peter Hynes; and Ray Scully of Waterford United. [" [http://www.eleven-a-side.com/corkcity/irish_soccer_detail.asp?newsid=26855 Clubs hit with two-club ruling] ", "Eleven-a-side.ie", 9 March 2007.]

The Football Association of Ireland argued to FIFA that, as they ran a league with an unconventional Summer season out of tandem with the calendar of most other European national leagues, around which the rule was based, such circumstances ought to be permissible for players playing in the FAI National League. However, with two weeks of the league season completed, the association had yet to come to an agreement with FIFA. As a result, in failing to ensure that the clubs under its jurisdiction would be able to field their full squads at the outset of the season, the FAI came in for criticism. Numerous fans of the league condemned what they viewed to be carelessly negligent short-sightedness on the part of the association.

By 23 March 2007, three of the group were cleared to play by FIFA. The players who were cleared to play were Gary Rogers of Galway United, Alan Cawley of Bray Wanderers and Shaun Holmes of Finn Harps, while decisions on the remainder were not expected for another week. [" [http://irishfootballonline.com/news_story.php?newsid=6159 Three of ten players cleared to play] ", "Irish Football Online", 23 March 2007.] On 2 April, it was announced that Colin Healy and Gareth Farrelly both failed to gain clearance to play for Cork City. [" [http://www.ireland.com/sports/soccer/2007/0403/1175583552767.html Farrelly and Healy fail to gain clearance] ", "The Irish Times" 3 April 2007.] While the FAI had taken the cases forward to FIFA on behalf of most of the players, it was Cork City who decided to have their own legal team represent their two players.

It was announced on 5 April that Peter Hynes had received clearance by FIFA. This concluded the wait for decisions on all ten players as the remainder (bar the two Cork City players) were also given exemptions. The other players cleared were: John Brophy and Mark Leech of Shelbourne; Willie Doyle of Monaghan United; and Ray Scully. [" [http://www.eircomloi.ie/news_item_32.htm FIFA grant clearance to Hynes] ", "FAI eircom League", 5 April 2007.] In the meantime, Cork City suggested that they would be appealing FIFA's decision not to grant their two players clearance on 18 April, 2007 by the 20 April deadline. The club made a 'strongly-worded submission' to FIFA in relation to the issue asking FIFA to reconsider and were in consultation with people within the game, in legal circles and even those involved in politics. [" [http://irishfootballonline.com/news_story.php?newsid=6355 Cork City ask FIFA to reconsider] ", "Irish Football Online", 18 April, 2007.] FIFA rejected Cork City's appeal on 23 April but the club stated that they may take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport as a last resort. [" [http://irishfootballonline.com/news_story.php?newsid=6389 Cork City's FIFA appeal rejected] ", "Irish Football Online", 23 April, 2007.] When they did eventually take the case to this stage, it was once again decided against their favour, meaning that the two players had to wait to July until they could represent Cork City. [" [http://www.rte.ie/sport/2007/0612/cork.html Farrelly and Healy fail in court appeal] ", "RTÉ Sport", 12 June 2007. Retrieved on 15 June 2007.]

Attendances

The league reported a significant increase in attendance figures for the opening weekend of the season with the average gate up 17 per cent from the same weekend in 2006. A total of 20,632 people paid into 11 fixtures on the opening weekend of the season. This equated to an average attendance of almost 1,900 which, compared with the 1,600 mean figure from a year previously, represented an increase of 17 per cent. The figures constituted an early success for the newly-appointed National Club Promotions Officer, Noel Mooney, who was appointed to co-ordinate the new Club Promotions Officers at 16 eircom League clubs.

With the attendance figures eclipsing the projected targets, Mooney commented:

The improved attendance rate was maintained as the season progressed as a total of 97,656 patrons attended fixtures over the first six weeks season. The figure for the same period for the 2006 season was just 65,828, with the average attendance of 1,480 per game throughout the 2007 Premier Division and 2007 First Division equating to a massive rise of 37 per cent in attendances. [" [http://irishfootballonline.com/news_story.php?newsid=6358 League sees 37% attendance rise] ", "Irish Football Online", 19 April, 2007.]

FIFA 08

On 8 June 2007, it was announced that the FAI had teamed up with Electronic Arts and that the League of Ireland would feature in the FIFA 08 computer game; the first time for the league to feature in the FIFA Series. [" [http://www.eircomloi.ie/news_item_119.htm Eircom League of Ireland to feature in FIFA 08 ] ", "eircomLOI.ie", 8 June, 2007. Retrieved on 8 June 2007.] Top players from the league, including Derry City's Pat McCourt and Joseph Ndo of St. Patrick's Athletic, were present at the official announcement and photocall of the deal which took place in Temple Bar, Dublin on 11 June 2007. It was confirmed that all 12 teams in the Premier Division of the FAI League of Ireland will be featured in the game. At the event, Fran Gavin, Director of the FAI League of Ireland said:

ee also

*FAI Cup 2007
*Setanta Sports Cup 2007
*Football League of Ireland Cup 2007

External links

* [http://www.eircomloi.ie/ Website of the eircom League]
* [http://www.fai.ie The Football Association of Ireland]
* [http://irishfootballonline.com/ Irish Football Online]
* [http://www.eleven-a-side.com/ Eleven-a-side.com]
* [http://www.ifgrounds.com/home.html Irish Football Grounds]
* [http://www.foot.ie Foot.ie supporter forum]
* [http://www.fai.ie/pdf/2007_Fixture_List.pdf eircom League preliminary fixture list] (Correct prior to potential alterations due to match-clashes with games in other competitions featuring eircom League teams)
* [http://fai.ie/pdf/FAI_Rule_Book.pdf FAI Rule Book]
* [http://www.extratime.ie ExtraTime.ie]
* [http://www.irishtifo.tk Irish Tifo Forum]

Footnotes

fnb|1 [http://www.ireland.com/sports/soccer/league-proposals.pdf FAI/eircom League Implementation Committee - Proposals on the strategic direction of the National League 2007-2012]
fnb|6 Liechenstein has no properly recognised league championship. Therefore, the country has no UEFA Champions League entrants, although the cup winners enter the UEFA Cup.

References


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