Monday, November 24, 2008

Irish eyes aren't smiling - seand

Finally! Another dismal season of League of Ireland football shudders to a merciful halt. The final table may reflect Bohemians' supremacy on the pitch, but as ever in the shambolic League of Ireland the real drama occurred off the pitch.

Eight of the twelve Premier Division clubs hit major financial problems. The most spectacular meltdowns, so far, have been at two of the country's most successful clubs of recent years, 2005 champions Cork City and 2007 champions Drogheda United. Both clubs based their budgets on unrealistic financial projections and fell apart when the cash dried up. Cork's budget was built on an apparent guarantee from erstwhile owners, venture capital company Arkaga. It became apparent that no legally binding agreement was in place when Arkaga pulled out and City hit the rocks. When planning permission for Drogheda's proposed new ground was denied, and with the club's town centre home ground no longer a lucrative development prospect, the businessmen bankrolling the club soon skulked away. Both clubs entered examinership , the Irish equivalent of administration. Cork have emerged, chastened, from the process, while Drogheda's future hangs in the balance.

Things are far from rosy at champions Bohemians too. Pat Fenlon's expensive all-star squad swept to the title but the club's finances are in a parlous state. Fenlon's flamboyant spending and Bohs' ever increasing debt were based on the assumption that many millions were coming Bohs' way from the sale of Dalymount Park. However, Bohemians recently lost a court case over ownership of part of the ground, and will not be able to sell Dalymount as planned. At best Bohs should still be able to sell, build a modest replacement stadium and clear their debts, though the value of the venue has been slashed. At worst the ground will be pretty much unsaleable, the potential purchaser will want his seven-figure deposit back, and Bohs, owing many millions, could soon be homeless and pretty much penniless.

In another league in another season the stories of Galway, Sligo, Finn Harps, Cobh and Bray all failing to pay wages at various stages, St Pats' Gary Dempsey betting on his own team to lose , Drogheda's Stuart Byrne tapping up team mates, the arbitrary decision to reduce the Premier Division to ten teams and Dundalk's extraordinary last-gasp promotion would be headline grabbers in their own right, but in the quagmire of the 2008 League of Ireland season they were mere footnotes.

It is now apparent that the touted professional All Ireland League is dead in the water. Clearly there is not enough interest in Ireland to support a professional football league. It is a pity because some progress has been made in Europe, with good performances from Pats and Drogheda this year, and others recently. It seems unlikely that a semi-pro league will be able to sustain those recent improvements, which is a sad state of affairs, but one which the 'great Irish sporting public' (who are watching rugby this week, I believe) deserve.


offsideintahiti said...

Thanks for the update, Sean.

So everyone with an interest in soccer is still following the English Premier League and everyone else following the hurling and football? Sounds like Ireland allright.

Siobhan O' Greengrassavannah Greengrass said...

Thanks, seand!
You had me confused for a moment - I thought the Overlord of GU had defected to us.
If it was like this in Irish footy before the global economic melt down, what will it be like soon?
When I've been in Ireland, most of the kids wear United or Liverpool gear. Don't Irish clubs sell replica shirts, etc. - or are the kids just not interested in Irish teams?
Are Irish sports people very, very proud of that great Irish sports writer Barry Glendenning?

ElSell said...

1. Sligo Rovers NEVER missed a player wage! Sligo rovers had a tax bill from last year that needed clearing, they gambled on a cup run clearing it, it would have, they went out early and had to cut their cloth accordingly.
They collected money from fans to clear the club debt as Rovers have no owners, they are a communitty club.
Interestingly enough they probaby would not have been in that position if the Setanta cup place they earner the previous season had not been taken off them and given to Pats (pretty sure it was Pats)(Setanta cup is semi invitational).

2.Galway are/were in trouble of the FAI's making, they were artifically promoted when they were not ready and suffered as a result!

3.Gary Dempsey had a 20 euro double on, including pats to lose a game HE WASNT PLAYING IN. Stupid but hardly corruption.

4. Drogs are run by idiots.
5. Bohs are run by loopers.
6. Cork were bought out by "dodgy types" who raised Joe Gambles wages from 800 a week to over 4 grand a week.
They are now gone again and wpnt be missed.

7.The less said about Stuart Byrne the better. Drogs have/had a squad of over 40 full time pros(!), mostly lads who go where the next pay check is, no cares about what they leave behind! As i said Drogs are run by idiots!

8.All Ireland League Was a non starter and was a breakaway league in the first place so the FAI cannot be blamed for it.
It was a non starter because there are Saturday/Sunday morning teams in the South who would fancy their chances in the north.

9.The lure of European success is what caused the trouble in the first place, building from the top down only leaves you with a shallow foundation.

10. "The great Irish sporting public" dont so weekly, they do EVENTS, Rugby is an event, before the European cup in rugby they got tini crowds for games.
Gaa is a cup and so is an event based competion.
Gaa league gets tini crowds.
Yer average ManU fan in Ireland never played football and cant hold a 5 min conversation about the game without quoting Andy Gray; yer average Liverpool fan is getting that way.
FAI league run smart could easily get crowd to substain the clubs, as long as clubs dont go paying 4 grand a week to players.
"The great Irish sporting public"
At best do sports; dont watch sports!
Which isnt a bad thing!?

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