League of Ireland First Division
SHAMROCK Rovers chairman Jonathan Roche has defended the club’s decision to enter a reserve side in the 2020 First Division following opposition from rival clubs both in the bottom and top tier.
The Hoops will be represented in both divisions for the second time after fielding a ‘B’ team in the 2014 First Division before being replaced by Cabinteely.
The nine extant First Division clubs – Rovers have replaced Limerick, who went into administration last year – released a new year’s eve statement expressing their opposition to the move.
Some clubs have privately expressed a willingness to boycott fixtures with Rovers II, as they’re officially titled, but the opening league fixture at home to Longford Town looks set to go ahead.
And chairman Roche, who was part of 400 club fans group that rescued Rovers from potential liquidation in 2007, said it’s a necessary step the club needs to take to fully develop players.
“It’s Shamrock Rovers II – from a club perspective it’s about player pathway, It’s development we have to do, must do, for our players.” Roche said.
“That’s what it’s all about. I’m a bit surprised by the noise in the last few weeks, seeing that all the clubs have done so much over the last number of years in regards to academies and stuff like that.
“There is no next step, through no fault of the clubs, in regards to players when they’re 18/19.
“We applied last October, before anything happened with Limerick or anything like that, purely on the basis of developing players and putting our players first.”
It’s understood fielding a second team could cost the Hoops up to six figures, and it’s common on the continent for clubs like Barcelona and Bayern Munich to field reserve teams in lower leagues.
He continued: “I don’t think it gives Shamrock Rovers a competitive advantage. It definitely doesn’t give us a financial advantage; it’s actually a disadavantage.
“Where it does give us an advantage is in player development. It’s not highly unusual in European football. So I don’t really understand [the opposition].
“Clubs are entitled to the opinions but we’ve had really good feedback as well, especially from players and managers, who think it’s a good thing.”
Rovers will be allowed to field up to three first team players, plus a goalkeeper, during the season, although the club don’t expect to use the full allocation due to the fixture schedule.
“With the amount of fixtures, that limits the number of first team players. The majority of the squad will be under 21, a mixture of players that we retained from our 19s that are already overage.
“From our 19s panel as well, our 17s and maybe later on in the year some of our 15s and 16s who are internationals etc, will get game time in senior football.”