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Fenlon: LOI needs to have a plan

PAT FENLON admits that he's worried about the future of the League of Ireland because of the lack of leadership from those in power in the FAI.

Fenlon gathered up five Premier Division titles in his 10-season spell as a manager in the league here, and despite his exile to Scotland he retains an interest in LOI affairs. This week, he noted that Conor O'Brien, a son of his assistant manager at Hibs (Liam O'Brien) made his first-team debut for Bohemians.

Fenlon has other things on his mind these days, notably tonight's SPL game away to Motherwell as Hibs try to make sure of a place in the top six when the SPL splits next month, but the former Shelbourne, Bohemians and Derry City manager reveals his concerns for the senior game.

"I am worried as I don't think enough is being done to make it better, to promote it.

"The league is there at the moment but I don't think people have a real plan for it, to make it better and that is a worry to me," Fenlon confessed.

"The League of Ireland is what I was brought up on, I still have a huge affinity for it and a lot of friends there. But it needs a plan and a structure and I don't see that, that's my gripe with how things are.

"We're not looking to get 20,000 people at the game, we're trying to get 3,000 or 4,000 people to games and that shouldn't be a problem, but it is," he added.

Fenlon had a long involvement in the league, as a player and manager but also as a union rep, from his time at the helm of the PFAI, and he is frustrated at what he sees as a lack of vigour from Abbotstown.

"It needs to be driven from the top, the people at the top have to show an interest and want to improve it. It needs to be driven by the Association and it needs better guidance from the people running the game.

"I've said this for a long time, we have something we can improve on but you have to want to improve on it and, at the moment, it looks like the league is just there as a necessity. It's ticking along and left alone, the clubs aren't paying big wages and they are surviving so it's left alone.

"But where is the plan for the league? Where are we trying to bring it? Some of the stadiums are okay but most of them are very poor. Tallaght Stadium is very good and they did well to get that to where it is, but I can go to three or four stadiums in the First Division in Scotland that are better," he conceded.

"The league now is weaker than it has been for seven or eight years, with finances the way there are we have lost a lot of players from the league to England and Scotland. You can't lose than many players and expect the standard to remain high.

"The plus side of that is that there are a lot of young players getting first-team football at the moment.

"A lot of the senior pros have either gone to England or retired and that's opened the door for younger lads to come in, and that's a positive for the league."