The League of Ireland has been getting to know the justice system a little too well these days. More and more fans now have pocket law terminology phrasebooks, the phrase ‘winding up’ given a far less amusing connotation, and Irish clubs find themselves in courtrooms more often than a crack affectionate serial killer with bad parking habits.
Following in the footsteps of clubs like Cork City, Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians (literally, they could barely afford shoes), Waterford United have joined the illustrious list of clubs in the courtroom. The latest creditor looking for his money was ex-Blues manager Stephen Henderson, formerly of Cobh Ramblers (yet another team wound… oh you get the picture), who was owed exactly €37,600 from the previous December, due to unpaid compensation following his sacking.
That is seven months to come up with €37,000, for a football team. Notwithstanding that, the side sold one of its brightest talents, Sean Maguire, to Premiership club West Ham and received compensation. One must presume with a club of West Ham’s stature and finances (paying over £4 million annually for the services of Andy Carroll remember) would be obliged to cough up a lot more money than required to pay off Henderson, especially when one considers the Blues snapped up two Cork City players at the start of the season in the shape of Gavin Kavanagh and Vinny Sullivan.
This season most certainly hasn’t matched expectations on the field for United. Having only missed out on promotion in a playoff tie last season, the Suirsiders started 2013 disastrously, losing to Ramblers in the League Cup and then a shock 4-0 defeat at the hands of Mervue United. Following that was a trip to the High Court in March which reminded the Waterford board of their responsibilities towards Henderson, but as in the case in all of the examples we’ve already spoken of, this warning was not heeded.
Henderson was probably wondering where the money was being spent himself, before finally losing his patience and turning the screw. This started the chain of events we’re so used to seeing in the league: The initial breaking news followed by the tut, sigh, and murmurs of ‘same old story’ etc. Then the social media campaigns to keep the club going with fans inevitably called on to dig into their own pockets and bail out the inadequacy of those at the top (where have we seen that before?). The case goes to court, gets adjourned a few times and tests the patience of the judge and the creditor, the bottle of the club officials, and the nerves of the fans. Texts and calls fly around from agitated supporters while hearsay and rumours keeps everyone second guessing before a decision is eventually made.
In the end Waterford were saved by the dedication and generosity of their fans. Once again the ordinary punter is left to clear up the mess by those in charge; that generosity combined with the patience of both Henderson and Judge Laffoy (not the first time for the latter party either) saw another League of Ireland heartbreak avoided.
That’s not where this story ends though, as Waterford have just signed yet another Cork City player, Danny Furlong, on loan for the next six months. So two days after being bailed out by the skin of their chomps at the last minute, the team has now taken another wage on board. The club has tried to justify it through the sale of another youngster overseas, but surely with a payment, so apparently substantial they waited seven months before being forced to pay it in the high court still hanging over their shoulders, the thought of taking on another expense would be ludicrous. Obviously not in the heads of these directors.
The fundraising will go on, and people will continue to dig deep into their own pockets for the causes they love, but the gross negligence at the top must stop. Only by standing up and refusing to accept the status quo can we eventually see the League progress, and for people to finally say ‘Different story, different year’.