The League of Ireland remains clueless after the release of Jonathan Gabay's report

The branding expert's proposals were widely panned after a presentation on Thursday

BY Daniel Kelly 11:37 Friday 16 December 2016, 11:37 16 Dec 2016

Jonathan Gabay at the Aviva Stadium. Picture by: Twitter/Jonathan Gabay

Until Thursday afternoon, many League of Ireland fans had never heard of Jonathan Gabay.

Hired by the FAI to write a brand report on the state of the League of Ireland, Gabay's presentation to media, clubs and stakeholders in the Aviva Stadium has widely been panned.

From ideas such as painted bus-stops with live rolling scores, to walks of fame and even murals of the poetry of WB Yeats, Gabay's ideas were met with mostly disbelief from those in attendance.

Speaking after his presentation, the branding expert revealed the process of how the now infamous report was created.

"I got truthful answers. Some were positive. Some were not positive... What I didn't want to do was to censor anybody. Otherwise you're going to get a whitewash of a report."

"This report is based on the good, the bad and the ugly. Rather than just moan about things, what I was looking at is what could be done to improve things."

In the report he writes that it will take up to three years for his ideas to come into place, if implemented by the FAI, even though he admits all of them may not be used.

 "What I want is that these people can follow some of my recommendations, and that they will improve things for themselves." 

Those improvements are unlikely to come from the painted bus stops or one-off friendlies with MLS clubs on a Bank Holiday Monday. However, exactly what brief Gabay was given from the FAI remains unknown. There was no outstanding points despite Fran Gavin's introduction that he was "very excited" by what was to be shown.

Speaking to many of those in attendance after the presentation, no singular positive point stood out. What was Gabay's golden idea to help the league? Nobody is sure.

Gabay spoke with a genuine fondness for the league, and he is hopeful for the immediate future of the domestic game, but he admitted he came into the process without any previous ideas about the League of Ireland.

"I looked at this as I look at every single brand. I looked at it totally dispassionately at the beginning, which is why at the end, when I was feeling so welled up about this league, it really did get to me. I did not come at this with any bias... I thought it was the best way to look at it."

Despite being paid by the FAI to complete the report, FAI Director of Competitions Fran Gavin underlined - on numerous occasions - that the report was independent.

"It's an independent review. That has to be stressed. There are some interesting things there. It's a small piece of where we are trying to go with the league."

Gavin also admitted that while some of the ideas were "good", he did not expect the full report to be implemented by the association.

"Lot and lots of ideas. None of them are set in stone, some of it is good and some of it mightn't work."

While many of the ideas will never see the light of day, one of Gabay's more interesting proposals was having each League of Ireland club represented in the Women's National League. Currently only Cork City, Shelbourne, UCD and Wexford Youths have clubs in the WNL.

Gabay's idea may seem impractical given the tight budgets of clubs, but in a week where the absence of women in sport has been highlighted, the plan could benefit both the club and the women's game in the near future, through driving community involvement and welcoming new fans to the game..

Some clubs in both the Premier and First Division already have strong brand presence in their local communities. The likes of Cork City, Dundalk and Cabinteely lead the way in their online promotion, but Gavin want the league as a whole to unite to help it improve.

"A lot of clubs do good jobs and overall, we're starting to get our act together. We need to do it collectively."

Whether or not the contents of the Gabay Report are implemented remains to be seen, but the presentation will live long in the memory of those in attendance on Thursday afternoon. 

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