League Cup Winners Deserve A Reward
By Ciarán Duffy - @PostToPostSport
I’m Ciarán Duffy, the producer and present of Post to Post Sport. Every Thursday we bring out our League of Ireland podcast ‘Get Your Bleak On’. I’m joined by Declan ‘Fabio’ O’Brien to discuss all things LOI. I was delighted to get the opportunity to write about some of the issues we bring up on Post to Post Sport for Between the Stripes. And this week, I’m talking about the fact the one of the European spots for the League of Ireland should go to the League of Ireland Cup Winners.
For those unaware…
Currently the League of Ireland gets 1 Champions League qualifying spot (first round) and 3 Europa League qualifying spots (also first round). The Champions League place goes to the winners of the Premier Division. The three Europa League spots go to the 2nd and 3rd placed teams, and the FAI Cup winners. If the FAI Cup winners have qualified for European competition through the league already (as was the case last season with Dundalk winning the double), the 3rd Europa League spot goes to the 4th placed team in the league.
And what of the 3rd domestic trophy? The EA Sports Cup? The winners get a trophy and nothing more. The prize money is not really just reward for having to play 4 or 5 extra games a season. Surely a European berth should be given to the winners.
In the English and French equivalents, the League Cup winners get the opportunity to play in the Europa League. Surely that should be the case for the League of Ireland Cup winners. Winning this trophy has to be worth more than coming 3rd, or potentially 4th (or in the case of last season 5th due to the licencing fiasco brought on by the FAI) in the league.
Looking at it from the point of view of competitiveness, it makes sense. Teams will show a great deal of respect to the competition, while at the same time, may still rotate, meaning there is a chance for any team involved to qualify and reap the monetary rewards, which they can then put into their squad.
I would be of the mindset that if the winners of the FAI Cup or EA Sports Cup qualify through the league then the 4th qualifying place should be awarded to the 4th placed team in the League. However it shouldn’t be so easy for a team to finish 4th and qualify. Surely preference should go to the team that actually lifts a trophy.
Finishing 3rd or 4th in a league of 10 teams is hardly a bigger achievement than winning a knockout competition for the established Premier Division sides.
There are some pitfalls, for one thing the final would have to be played at a neutral venue, which hasn’t always been the case. It would be unfair to give a side home advantage. Why not the Aviva? It’s another big day out for fans to come along and support their teams, and it really adds to the prestige. If not there, as long as it’s neutral and has a decent capacity it will do.
It would also make sense to allow the tournament to run earlier in the season, like the English equivalent. A constant problem in the league is fixtures being postponed, resulting in fixture overload later in the season. Maybe have the preliminary round preseason, leave Round 1 where it is, have Round 2 at the end of March, Round 3 mid April, Quarter Finals in May, Semi-Finals in June, and have the Final two weeks or so before the European qualifiers start. Preferably after the week off in June, or just before that. It needs to be at a time where it won’t have to be moved due to international games.
It would be a great occasion, a final in June, nice weather (probably hopefully), and there’s something big on the line.
At the very least the EA Sports Cup winner should be involved in a play-off for one of the European spots.
What do you think? A European Spot for the League Cup Winners? A play-Off? The league Cup gets the spot if the FAI Cup winners have already qualified? Drop us a tweet @BetweenStripes or comment on Facebook.com/BetweenTheStripes