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Stephen Kenny & Jonathan Hill Admit LOI Facilities Are Nowhere Near Required Standard

Stephen Kenny & Jonathan Hill Admit LOI Facilities Are Nowhere Near Required Standard
By Gary Connaughton Updated

While we may be gone beyond the days of the League of Ireland being referred to as a 'problem child' by the FAI, there is no doubt that there is a long way to go before the country's professional football league reaches the standards that are required.

The issues are well discussed at this stage. The financial realities in the division mean it can be difficult for players to be tied down to long-term contracts, meaning clubs run the risk at losing their most valuable assets for nothing.

An even more obvious problem comes in the form of the facilities available around the country. Many League of Ireland grounds have fallen into dilapidated states. Not only does this reduced the possible revenue streams available to teams, it has also turned many (most notably young families) off attending fixtures altogether.

This is a problem that the FAI have said they are determined to correct, although doing so will require a cohesive plan and Government assistance.

Speaking at the announcement of Stephen Kenny's new contract this afternoon, FAI CEO Jonathan Hill admitted that big upgrades were needed and said a strategy was being put together to ensure these could be delivered in the years ahead.

All of us want to have world class facilities for the League of Ireland...

It will take some time for us to formulate our plan in relation to that. Once we do, we will take it to Government and we will talk with them along with the clubs to ensure that those facilities, and those available to all the international teams, are at the right standard that we want for progress to be made...

Wifi is important for you guys, we had a conversation with you about that. It is just as important for fans as well.

The real sea change in English football came on the back of two major disasters. I think the investment that was made into infrastructure at that time has made English football move forward.

I would hope that the Government and other parties, the club and club owners will see that the facilities we want to have are the right facilities, that they're fit for purpose for the current fans, new fans, and families to come and enjoy the experience in the right way.

I think we all agree that we want that happen, but we all know that will take considerable investment. To get that investment we need a clearly defined and articulate plan.

Improving facilities in the League of Ireland is a key aspect of the FAI Strategy Plan announced earlier this year, although exact details on what exactly this would entail were relatively scarce.

Stephen Kenny is somebody who knows the division intimately, having spent the majority of his career in the domestic club scene before stepping up to the international game.

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He believes that there has been a shift in terms of interest in the league, although he feels that an upgrade in the facilities available will bring this along even further.

I think we're going beyond the issue.

There is no 'League of Ireland fans' and 'non-League of Ireland fans', what is starting to emerge is 'football fans'. They are people who love the game at all levels. People can follow the game passionately in Ireland and simultaneously in other countries if they want to do so, that's not an issue.

We include grassroots and the Republic of Ireland within that, we can see that with 18,000 seasons tickets being sold and hopefully even more. Hopefully we can get a number of sell-outs throughout the year. With the League of Ireland, there have been some full houses throughout the country.

The facilities not good enough, nowhere near good enough. If the facilities were better you'd feel that we could get even more supporters and a better league. It's all linked to finances and keeping the better players, that's all part of it.

Until we see some real changes made, this issue certainly isn't going away any time soon.

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SEE ALSO: Stephen Kenny Admits The Time For Excuses Is Over As Nations League Campaign Looms

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