Before the recent Dublin derby between Bohemians and St Pats, fans unveiled a banner protesting about the role of the FAI in the demise of many League of Ireland clubs. Indeed, since the FAI has taken over the running of the League in 2007, seven clubs have gone bust.
These clubs include Cork City, Dublin City and Monaghan United, while at the same time some of the League’s biggest clubs including Shelbourne and Bohemians have been pushed to the brink. Sadly the name of Dundalk FC may soon be added to this list of clubs that have died.
Dundalk FC is one of the great clubs in League of Ireland history. The club established in 1903 is 109 years old and is one of the league’s most successful clubs. Dundalk FC has won the League Championship 9 times and 9 FAI Cups.
They have competed in the European Cup against sides such as Liverpool, Celtic and Red Star Belgrade. Dundalk is not only a successful football club but also a valuable social amenity for the town of Dundalk and the surrounding areas. Clubs such as Dundalk and Monaghan United gave their respective towns and counties a sense of sporting identity and a chance of national and European glory on a seasonal basis.
These clubs are at the centre of their communities offering young kids the chance to express themselves and offer supporters something to look forward to at the end of a long week. They visit schools and do their best to pass on the love of football to the next generation. These clubs should be cherished and protected, not allowed to fade away and die.
As of this week, Dundalk are officially up for sale. The club’s finances are in a perilous state and the club requires an immediate takeover and investment. The supporters trust have met the FAI about a takeover but require additional finance if they are to succeed in their bid.
The precarious nature of the situation means should Dundalk fail to attract new ownership/investment then the name of Dundalk will be added to the list of clubs that have gone to the wall on the FAI’s watch.
For one of the league’s most successful clubs to be facing down the barrel of extinction is completely unacceptable. The football community in Ireland deserves answers from the association.
Why does FAI chief earn 400,000 per year and pay for 4,500 euro worth of Irish fans drinks in Poland, while at the same time Monaghan are allowed to fold because of debts of 6,000 euro?
Why does it cost 19,000 euro to enter the league yet finish fourth in the league and you will receive a measly 15,000 euro?
Why is the FAI so bad at marketing and promoting the game in this country?
The answers to these questions are simple. In fact there is only one answer. The Football Association of Ireland is more concerned with the senior national team and its exploits than with the health of the domestic game.
The “visionaries” within the FAI fail to see the link between the health of the League of Ireland and the health of the game in the future. This much is evident from their total lack of engagement with the clubs and the league as a whole.
This lack of interest and engagement with the league is professional negligence on the part of the association. Regardless of the fate of Dundalk, the FAI has to examine its role in the league and needs to review its approach to the domestic game in Ireland.
Irish football fans need to have a long hard look in the mirror. The self-styled best fans in the world are more than happy to spend thousands to get to Poland to watch a sub-standard team play industrial style football, yet are unwilling to go and support their local League of Ireland team on a Friday night.
Football fans and football enthusiasts in this country have a responsibility to support the league. If they care about football as much as they claim to, then they should ensure that there is a domestic League in this country for their children and grandchildren’s generation.
Should the Dundalk Supporters Trust fail to get the finance necessary to save the club then future of the League of Ireland will look bleak. Indeed, the most frustrating aspect about this is that the league has great potential.
The standard of football is good, the prices are reasonable and the people that do attend are humorous, personable and passionate about football. The league has produced some wonderful players who have gone on to play on an even bigger stage.
The future of the league and its clubs depends on football fans. So it’s time for them to support their own league by putting away the Manchester United, Liverpool and Celtic shirts, even just for one night a week.