ATHLONE Town are one of several League of Ireland clubs facing a very bleak future following the FAI's announcement on Wednesday that the current make-up of the Premier and First Divisions will retain virtually the same status quo for the 2013 season - instead of introducing the widely-heralded idea of one combined division.
That's the view of current Athlone Town FC chairman, John Croughan, who spoke to the Westmeath Independent in the aftermath of the FAI's announcement.
The 2013 season will see a 12-team Premier Division, and only a paltry and almost laughable seven clubs making up an ever-degenerating second tier.
Among those will be famous Irish clubs like Athlone, Finn Harps and probably Waterford Utd (unless promoted this season).
Croughan was part of a five-strong League Management committee set up at the request of the FAI to discuss the league's structures with all clubs, and to return to the governing body with their proposals for next season.
However, with powerful clubs like Shamrocks Rovers among those opposed to one division, Croughan said clubs like Athlone face an uncertain future.
"I'll be open about it because what the FAI has decided to do is the wrong decision, in my opinion, and is to the detriment of the League of Ireland," said a somewhat bewildered Croughan.
"All First Division teams, bar one, want a combined division, with the proposal for relegation to be phased-in over a period of two or three years. One Premier Division club backed that idea, while two or three sat on the fence and didn't contribute one way or the other.
"The First Division is a graveyard and is achieving nothing. What's happening is that there are decreasing standards and expectations, and the quality of the division is decreasing all the time," said Croughan.
The chairman said visits to Lissywollen of the likes of Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and Cork City would have generated huge interest locally, and that the days of low attendances could become a thing of the past.
"Athlone Town is completely against what the FAI has decided, which appears to be the easy option for them. The process went on for two years or more, but I don't think the will was there at the top-table to bring about change.
"It's getting more and more difficult to generate the sort of income necessary with the crowds, and the various expenses, that we have. The pending Co-Operative structure should help the club, but the only way to go was a combined division for the overall benefit of the League," said Croughan, also a well-known businessman in the town.
Croughan dismissed suggestions that a current non-league club could be introduced to take First Division numbers back to its present tally of eight, saying: "I don't think any potential new clubs can meet the high standards for Licensing Criteria".
The FAI said, in a brief statement, that they "will seek expressions of interest from prospective First Division teams who contact them".
"I genuinely think, and this is with inside knowledge of the way things are within clubs, that two or three more clubs will drop-out of the League by next September," Croughan stated.
"Clubs like Athlone can't continue in the current First Division. Despite countless meetings and recommendations to revert to one division, the simple fact remains that the FAI only seem concerned about their UEFA co-efficient (which effects the seeding of Irish clubs and the national team), and to adhere to UEFA directives, they need two divisions, regardless of the fact the First Division is not working.
It's the FAI's fault for allowing the First Division decline to its current state. The overall development of the game or the League doesn't matter to the FAI or the bigger clubs," he added.