FAI bring start of 2017 League of Ireland season forward to February

It's a bid to reduce fixture congestion

BY Raf Diallo 16:17 Wednesday 16 November 2016, 16:17 16 Nov 2016

A view of The SSE Airtricity League trophy ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

The FAI have brought the start of the 2017 League of Ireland season to February 24th.

The move is designed to alleviate fixture congestion, with the mid-season summer break also to be reduced by a week.

The FAI Cup will only have replays for the quarter and semi finals, in a further bid to reduce pile-ups of games.

Fixture congestion was a major issue this season, particularly with Dundalk's extra games in Europe between Champions League qualifiers and Europa League group stage ties.

Cork City were also affected by the issue, having enjoyed a run in the Europa League.

Clubs lower down the Premier Division also had their plans affected as former Wexford Youths manager Shane Keegan outlined when he spoke to Newstalk's Airtricity League Podcast towards the end of the 2016 season.

"It's been crazy. I've highlighted it on a couple of occasions. I don't think it's any coincidence or surprise that it seems to be ourselves and Finn Harps that seem to be the two that get messed around most and seem to get punished because other teams are in Europe," he said at the start of October.

"You have no problem accommodating teams that are in Europe and we're all taking great joy from seeing what Dundalk are doing and see a couple of the other clubs progress through a round or two earlier in the summer.

"But the way ourselves and Finn Harps are being treated on the back of it is insane. It has to be one of the only leagues in Europe where a team has been told six days before they play a game that their game is being called off so that somebody else can play them instead."

With a large number of fixtures to be squeezed into a short period of time, Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny also recently gave his take on the issue on Newstalk, saying that the league campaign should have been extended to alleviate congestion.

"It's just wrong that the league has not been extended until Sunday or the Bank Holiday Monday. It's just absolutely wrong I think," he said.


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