First Division Alliance calls for nine-team First Division amid efforts to enter Shamrock Rovers B side in second tier

The League of Ireland First Division Alliance, the coalition of the nine second-tier sides, have declared the possibility of ‘B’ teams featuring in next year’s First Division ‘delivers no benefits.’

The possibility of Shamrock Rovers’ second-string entering the First Division for the second time has re-emerged following the failure of Limerick to apply for a license following examinership this year.

Clubs had been due to vote on whether to admit Rovers B in recent days but it appears the decision will instead be taken by the National League Executive Council.

A joint statement released by the nine remaining First Division clubs said the participation of a Premier B team “must involve an open discussion with all First Division clubs and not be resolved behind closed doors.”

The clubs unanimously stated that the participation of B teams in the First Division would do nothing to improve the competitive balance of the second tier.

Additionally, it would set a precedent for the addition of future B teams in the First Division in future, with the likes of St Patrick’s Athletic and Dundalk having previously examined the model.

The clubs have expressed a preference, in 2020, for a nine-team First Division playing four rounds of fixtures rather than the current three.

The letter was signed by Athlone Town, Bray Wanderers, Cabinteely, Cobh Ramblers, Drogheda United, Galway United, Longford Town, UCD and Wexford and released simultaneously by the clubs.

“All First Division clubs want to see a swift resolution to the issue of Premier 'B' Teams and their potential participation in the League of Ireland First Division in 2020,” it read.

“This must involve an open discussion with all First Division clubs and not be resolved behind closed doors.

“We are unanimous in our view that this delivers no benefits to the sporting integrity of the league and, indeed, Irish Football.

“In addition, this sets a dangerous precedent whereby the First Division could be populated by more B teams in future years thereby further demeaning its existence as a second-tier football league in Ireland.

“Many of our teams have long and rich histories in the League of Ireland. We strive to be stronger as clubs and we all aim to get to the Premier League.

“A number of Ireland's most successful clubs, such as Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers, have had their time in the First Division and have recovered to build strong clubs.

“Our stance protects all clubs, as no club is immune from relegation. The current First Division clubs are not here to help Premier League clubs develop their players at First Division clubs' expense.

“We, as clubs, are happy to proceed with a 9 team first division (despite no consultation), however we are insistent that there should be 4 rounds of games in order to deliver value to the fans of all of our clubs and ensure a competitive league. As clubs, we will strive to make this arrangement work.

“We have no objection (when consulted) to a loosening of the rules on overage players playing in U19 teams as has been proposed.

“Indeed, we would have no objection to a B league for clubs that wish to participate. Also, clubs can always look to enter B Teams in the Leinster Senior League as some of us already do.

“Each of us owes it to our fans to stand up for our clubs. We want every club to be stronger and for domestic football, in the guise of both divisions, to thrive.”

Rovers B side had previously entered the second tier in 2014 following the merging of Salthill Devon and Mervue United with new entity Galway (now Galway United).

They withdrew from the league at the end of that season and were replaced in the second tier by Cabinteely, however no fresh entrant from outside the existing structure appears on the horizon.