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All-Ireland League facing major shake-up

THE All-Ireland League is to have a major overhaul.

The Irish Rugby Football Union’s (IRFU) restructuring of the AIL will be implemented for the start of the 2011/12 season and it follows a consultation process that was begun in October 2009.

Provincial branches, the All Ireland Senior Rugby Clubs Association, coaches, players, referees and volunteers all had their say via the ‘Your Game, Your Say’ online survey.

The new all-Ireland structure will include:

an increase in the number of senior clubs from 48 to 52

rolling substitutions introduced on a trial basis

new regulations on contracted players’ participation

structures to remain in place until the 2016/17 season to provide stability to the League

Division One to consist of two sections (known as 1A and 1B) of 10 teams, each playing home and away. Promotion and relegation between 1A and 1B would be one automatic and one decided by play-off.

Division Two to consist of two sections (2A and 2B) of 16 teams, each playing 15 games. Promotion and relegation between 2A and 2B would be two automatic and one by play-off.

promotion and relegation between Division 1B and 2A would be an automatic two up and two down.

the present qualifying league structure (provincial winners’ round robin competition) will be maintained, including the promotion and relegation system to 2B.

from next season the team which finishes top of their respective division will be deemed to be the divisional league champions, and the winners of Division 1A will be deemed the All-Ireland League Champions.

Consideration may be given to play-offs in Division 1A to be included in the future. The number of senior clubs has been increased by four from 48 to 52.

This means that from next season each of the provincial champions will automatically gain senior status.

There will also be a move towards playing more Friday night games.

The qualifications process for the new league structure at the end of the 2011/12 season will include promotion and relegation in the following order. Top two clubs in Division 1B promoted to Division 1A (to give a 10-team league)

play-off between bottom club in Division 1A and 3rd in Division 1B

top four clubs in Division 2 promoted to Division 1B (to give a 10-team league)

play-off between bottom club in Division 1B and 5th in Division 2

top four clubs in Division 3 promoted to new Division 2A

play-off between bottom club in Division 2 and 5th in Division 3

no relegation from Division 3

the four provincial qualifying league winners promoted to the new Division 2B

The issue of fully contracted players participating in the league will see contracted players only playing in Division 1, with a reduction from three to two in the number of fully contracted players who may be included in the match day squads per team per match, of which only one can be a forward.

Fully contracted foreign players cannot play in the league as the role of the league is to develop indigenous players, not to develop overseas players.

Contracted development and academy players will have the ability to play in all divisions of the league without any restrictions.

Belfast Telegraph