A few weeks back in the glorious days of Tramore Hinterland (“glorious” because my utterings were actually worth something tangible), I wrote about how the decline of the League of Ireland seemed to have bottomed out. As the league resumes after the break for the European Championships, the news that came out of Monaghan last Monday made such a notion look narcissistic. I’m following it on a regular basis now so it must be okay, right? Wrong, and what’s more you have to worry that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
There’s a very good article on Extratime which shows with whom the fault lies in the League of Ireland – everybody, which is a counter-intuitive way of looking at it given the viewpoint of Shelbourne chairman Joe Casey that neither the FAI or Monaghan United is to blame. Joe is being too kind. It’s staggering to see that most clubs will pay more to be part of the League of Ireland than they’ll ever receive in prize money. Are the FAI trying to set clubs up for a fall? On the other hand, his mindset reflects that despite everything there’s still an inate inability in the League to live within your means. I know he’s making a general point and it’s unfair to zero in on examples chucked out in the course of an interview, but are we really meant to be believe that it’s impossible to legislate for pitch damage and Garda costs? We’re talking about a club who employed Roddy Collins, who you can be sure didn’t come cheap, yet have the cheek in their Twitter feed to blame the FAI for everything. Yep, everyone involved is to blame, and trying to absolve people on the basis that they all have the best of intentions is just going to let the problem fester.
Seeing as I was getting all radical yesterday regarding that most sacred of cows known as the Munster hurling championship, a little fighting talk regarding the League of Ireland will not go amiss. The FAI should embrace the opportunity from this crisis to impose some form of collective bargaining on the League of Ireland. It may sound corny to say that soccer is predicated on a system where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, but it’s true. When Manchester City won the English Premier League last season they received more prize money than anyone else. So they get rewarded for their success and their opponents get proportionately punished for their failure. It’s the economics of the madhouse, yet I’d guess it’s the way every league in Europe is set up.
Ironically the Premier League has got progressive tendencies. Thanks to the collective TV deal clubs lower down the league get far more than they would get in a purely free market system. For evidence of what happens in such a system, look no further than Spain. And don’t concentrate on the points tally, the goal difference is much more telling:
I’m not sure how collective bargaining would work in practice. The more radical elements, such as sharing all ticket revenue, would probably be illegal under EU law as a restriction on trade. But the FAI need to ensure that every club has a minimum source of income so they can’t turn around and claim that they couldn’t afford to pay the costs of policing games. Something has to give. The authorities cannot seriously think ‘more of the same’ is the way forward. Can they?
Oh, and before anyone blames the average Irish soccer fan and their event-junkie mentality which sees them spend thousands going to Gdansk but won’t spend tens to go to Gortakeegan, just remember that while you might be righteously correct it’s not usually a good idea to blame your potential customers for your failures, mmkaay?