— Drogheda United F.C. (@DroghedaUnited) February 20, 2020
SSE Airtricity League First Division clubs, including Drogheda United, have issued a joint statement this morning (Thursday) to alleviate the prospect of earlier threats to boycott games against Shamrock Rovers B team – but the clubs say they will participate in the new 2020 season ‘under protest’.
News of the stance of the First Division clubs was leaked online on Wednesday evening, ahead of a teased announcement to follow this morning. Clubs say they will play Shamrock Rovers B for one season only ‘under protest’. It had earlier been suggested that clubs were seeking to boycott games scheduled against the Hoops.
Shamrock Rovers B were invited to participated in the league for the 2020 season after Limerick FC were forced out of the league late last year.
In the statement, the clubs say they were, based on legal advice, “confident of a successful [legal] action” to “prevent a ‘Development’ team participating in the First Division. However, the potential disruption of a lengthy legal action would be excessive and would delay significantly the beginning of the league.”
The statement continues: “We do not believe this would be in the best interests of our supporters, players, volunteers or indeed of football in Ireland, especially at this time.”
“Our clubs will play against a ‘B’ team for the 2020 season but for the 2020 season only. However, our clubs will participate in the in the 2020 Airtricity League season under protest and our clubs and club officials will continue to highlight our views regarding ‘Development’ teams throughout the season.”
The statement confirms reports on Wednesday that is has been agreed Shamrock Rovers B team will consist of a solely Under 21 squad, bar one outfield player and one goalkeeper from their A panel.
Earlier this year, Drogheda United chairman Conor Hoey accused the Football Association of Ireland of “trying to kill the smaller clubs.
“I would like somebody to explain what the benefit of this is supposed to be to Drogheda United or any of the other clubs,” he told The Irish Times.
“I’ve asked but nobody could tell me. I have a huge amount of respect for the people at Rovers and I can completely understand why they want to do this, but this is a fix for Shamrock Rovers, nobody else, and you have to ask whether Dundalk or St Patrick’s Athletic of Bohemians will be allowed to do it too if they decide they have to follow suit.”
“Are they trying to kill the smaller clubs? That’s what it feels like. It feels like they are trying to make life more comfortable for the richer ones.”
Clubs have also previously made it clear their preference was to compete in a nine-team division in 2020 with no Shamrock Rovers B team included.
Earlier on Thursday morning, the clubs published a graphic on their respective social media channels featuring the crests of the nine First Division clubs who are opposed to the inclusion of Shamrock Rovers B team in the second tier. The graphic was accompanied by the caption ‘The People’s League, Where Communities Matter.’
Drogheda United kick off their First Division season against Cobh Ramblers at St Colman’s Park on Saturday evening.