There has been a lot of talk over the last number of years on the structure of the championship with many believing it is long overdue a revamp.
The seemingly lopsided and predictable nature of the current championship format, along with a noticeable drop in patrons attending matches, led the Gaa to invite submissions for championship reform last year with three out of four proposals sent to Congress for discussion.
The long drawn out nature of the SFC has a major impact on club players and their championships as well and the powers that be in the Gaa are well aware of this and want to condense the inter-county season to give the club championships more time to completed instead of the current situation were club teams are having to play championship games on consecutive weeks just to complete their competitions on time.
With that in mind the Gaa unveiled new plans to transform the All Ireland football championship, with proposals that include scrapping the quarter final stages and replacing them with a two group league format.
The proposal is for the last eight teams in the championship to be split into two groups of four and play off against each other over three weekends with the top two teams from each group contesting the All Ireland semi-finals, which are proposed to be played on the same weekend.
The new format will mean an additional eight games added to the championship calendar and for that to work the Gaa will have to revisit the playing of extra-time in all championship matches with the exception of the All Ireland Final, which maybe a stumbling block as it was a motion rejected at Congress.
For the proposal to work efficiently it would also need the Provincial Finals to be completed by the first weekend in July.
The new proposed format would see the provincial championships remain as they are and four rounds of qualifiers would be played as normal. Then it would be the four provincial champions plus the four fourth round qualifier winners as per normal.
They would then be split into two groups of four with each team having a game in Croke Park, one home game and one away game.
It’s believed that this new structure would provide a more exacting pathway to the All-Ireland final.
The finalists will have had to compete with three of the best teams in the country at the group stage, followed by a semi-final with a top-four team that came through the same test.
This will have the effect of ensuring that the finalists will have been equally tested and that the two best teams in the country contest the All-Ireland final.
It’s certainly not an unworkable proposal if counties are willing to agree to what is not a huge amount of change and it would definitely shake up a football championship that is getting duller and more predictable by the year.
The proposal for the new format of the All-Ireland senior football championship is as follows:
PROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: Knock-out format as at present.
ALL-IRELAND QUALIFIER SERIES
Round 1: Sixteen teams that do not qualify for provincial semi-finals
Round 2: Eight round 1 winners play eight defeated provincial semi-finalists
Round 3: Eight round 2 winners play each other on an open-draw basis
Round 4: Four round 3 winners play four provincial runners-up
(i) A Division 3 or 4 team drawn against a Division 1 or 2 team in rounds one, two or three of the qualifiers will be granted an automatic home-venue advantage.
(ii) The format of ‘A’ and ‘B’ sides to the qualifier draw will be ended.
The current quarter-final stage of the championship to be replaced by a Group Stage, contested by the four provincial champions and the four round 4 qualifier winners.
The group stage will be organised on a league basis with two groups of four teams, with each team playing the other three teams once.
After the group stage is completed the top two teams in each group will progress to the All-Ireland semi-final with the Group 1 winner playing the Group 2 runner-up and the Group 2 winner playing the Group 1 runner-up
ORDER OF FIXTURES IN BOTH GROUPS:
Team 1 v Team 2. Croke Park
Team 3 v Team 4. Croke Park
Team 1 v Team 3 or 4. Home advantage for provincial champions.
Team 2 V Team 3 or 4. Home advantage for provincial champions.
Team 1 v Team 3 or 4. Home advantage for Team 3 or 4.
Team 2 v Team 3 or 4. Home advantage for Team 3 or 4.
Home venues shall be subject to approval by the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) and
shall meet the criteria set down by the National Facilities/Health and Safety Committee. CCCC shall
make the draws for Rounds 2 and 3.
The above fixtures format for the group stage means that each team will have one game in Croke Park, one home game and one away game.
Tie-breakers in the event of teams finishing level on points (in order of application):
(i) Result of game between two tied teams (only where two teams are level on points)
(ii) Score difference
(iii) Highest score for
(iv) Goals scored
(v) Play-off match
Group 1 winner v Group 2 runner-up
Group 2 winner v Group 1 runner-up
(to be played over one weekend)