Where now for the League of Ireland?

by Mark Beegan

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.

Author Info

Mark Beegan

Mark Beegan

Mark is a graduate of UCD. Mark is a freelance journalist with a love of attacking football and tiki taka. Weekly contributor to Back Page Football. Writes mostly on European, South American and Irish Football.

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5 Responses

  1. David says:

    A few weeks ago I had to pay 15e to get into a League Cup quarter final seen by little more than 250 people in a stadium that can hold a lot more than that (Bray). In this country, in the financial times that are in it, do not tell me the prices are resonable.

    Saying the quality of football is good is all in the eye of the beholder of course, but I would tend to disagree.

    Finally, I’m sure talking down to and lecturing fans of English clubs will get them streaming through the gates of LoI teams. It’s been such a successfull tactic in the past after all.

    Irish football fans in my opinion, have no responsibility to support a league that is badly run, has little variation, is frequently overpriced for this country, has a realtive quality of football that is very poor, bad stadiums, bad promotion, I could go on and on.

    We can only keep trying of course but let’s not pretend that we who support the LoI are being wronged by those who are more comnfotable supporting the Man Utd’s, the Liverpool, the Arsenal’s for whatever reason. Or those, like me, who support one on either side. There is no correct way to follow football.

    You blame the FAI, than you take the oft heard course of blaming those who dare to decide to support an English club. You were half-right I think. There is a link between the failures of the FAI/LoI and the lack of interest from so many Irish people that it would be good to acknowledge.

    1. John Clarke says:

      You have unwittingly put your finger on the real problem here. There is no law of exclusivity in supporting a local side and having a favourite team in England, Scotland, Spain or wherever. A a regular LoI attender I would be the first to admit that many LoI fans contribute to this by insisting that you must love your local side and foresake all others.

      What I find strange about so many of these fans is how few games they have actually attended. Often less than four or five games a year. What these fans need to understand is that the many of the Irish players that they will follow in the EPL can first be seen in LoI and that they don’t go across the water and become transformed.

      I agree wholeheartedly with the article reagrding the FAI’s focus on the Senior International team. I wonder how many of the 30,000 fans in Poland that watched us lose 2-0 to Italy were aware that just two weeks earlier an Irish International team came back from 2-0 down against the Italians to draw 2-2 in front of a packed ground? This was of course the Under 21′s who drew with Italy at the Showgrounds in Sligo in a Euro qualifier. A game that barely warranted a mention in the national press while in Italy the game was screened live.

      However it is viewed the fault for that lack of coverage falls firmly at the door of the FAI’s press office, just as the failure of LoI clubs falls firmly at the door of the FAI’s licencing department. The FAI may not shoulder all the blame for the demise of domestic football but they can take the lions share of it

  2. Adrian Feely says:

    Personally agree with a lot the points raised. Feel a root branch review of Irish football is needed, especially the FAI’s role in failing to promote the League here. Oh and Daivd if you paid 15 euro into Bray then you were ripped off. I pay a tenner in most weeks to see the champions at tallaght so you need to shop around.

  3. John says:

    I have been following LOI for over 20 years. Apart from a few years where it looked like there was genuine progress , in general nothing has changed. I dare say nothing has changed in longer than the 20 years I’ve been following. Same arguments now as then. It’s just confirmed to me that far from just ignoring the league, the FAI are actively involved in ensuring it continues to struggle. They see the potential rise of any club or clubs as a power struggle they could do without. The nice cosy situation they find themselves in at the moment is just fine.

  4. Adrian Feely says:

    Totally agree John, the cosy situation needs to change and change now for the good of football

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