Former Kilkenny City player Billy Walsh believes that there is a “huge opportunity” to grow football in Ireland starting with the 2021 League of Ireland season.
Walsh feels that more must be done to grow the domestic game across the country.
“I think football has a huge opportunity to create a proper industry and leave the Delaney era behind us. The League of Ireland is a wonderful product, but it has never been marketed properly in my opinion, so we need to go further with it now,” said Walsh.
One way in which the FAI has attempted to increase the exposure of both the League of Ireland and Women’s National League is through its streaming platform WatchLOI. Fans can watch more games than ever before through the streaming platform and Walsh is a proponent of the service.
He said: “I think the WatchLOI is terrific. It gives fans the chance to watch their favourite teams and it worked well with the GAA last year so I think it can work for soccer.”
Limerick side Treaty United are a new entry into the First Division this season. Kilkenny man Walsh thinks more teams from bigger counties should be competing on the domestic front so that the sport can prosper outside of its traditional hotbeds.
“It’s huge that we have a team in Limerick. The fact that there was no LOI club in Limerick was disgraceful. I’ve always said that all the top counties need representation and the best way to do that is to bring in a third tier.”
Walsh lamented the fall of Kilkenny City and insists that several important aspects need to be touched on if there is any chance of there being a return of League of Ireland football to the area.
“We need a 10-year plan to bring Kilkenny back into the League of Ireland. There was never a footballing plan with Kilkenny City and that’s why we disbanded.
“We need a proper coaching structure to improve the young players who are coming through. Where are the coaching structures that develop top level players? They’re not there. That comes from the FAI and it has to be a concerted effort.”