Why is the Irish league facing challenges and is it striving to survive? Is the economic situation of the country the main reason for this downfall?
The truth is the story of Irish football is quite complicated by a list of issues:
- low ranking – 52nd out of 55 in total in the UEFA system;
- lack of proper sponsorship;
- salary cap;
- low attendance on the stadiums;
- TV rights;
- The growing popularity of other sports.
Ireland has been facing tough times and the economic situation affects the game of football as well.
Once a single division, the League of Ireland nowadays features all 5 divisions united under Irish Football Association in 2006 – the governing body. The main sponsor of all of them is Airtricity- the leading energy provider in the country.
The League of Ireland is the first in Europe to have an agreement for a salary cap. By maintaining this restriction, the whole process of negotiating is already limited. To attract good, high-level players becomes a serious problem and maybe even impossible.
Wages, contracts and audience
Another major problem is the players’ contracts. Since the pay rate is limited, player’s aren’t exactly fond of remaining at these clubs. This, of course, presents a serious issue when it comes to attracting good players. The fall in wages is the painful reality; the highest-paid footballer comes to the sum of 40,000 euro per year.
The attendance on the stadiums is crucial as 40% of the revenue comes from the tickets. But fans want to see a good product on that field, don’t they?
No professional player will agree to these conditions. It’s high time the league took some action!
The rivalry of other sports
Lately, other sports are overwhelming the game of football. The growing popularity of Gaelic games is harming the future of football seriously. Rugby, hurling, camogie and Gaelic football (very similar to soccer and rugby) have been developing significantly faster.
How can the Irish league survive
- Investing in young players to develop elite footballers;
- more finances for TV rights;
- reconstructing the stadiums according to security regulations and making them convenient for the attendants;
Football all over Europe is always subsidized through TV audiences and supporters.
And yet it is an entertainment business and therefore requires an audience. A good game means good entertainment and of course good players in it. Imagine no attendants – empty stadiums. Well, this is often the case in Ireland. Attendance has been going down steadily over the past decade.
Still, the league is kicking off its 99th season this year. It will be a hundred years old next year but it may not be such a remarkable anniversary anyway.
What comes next? The current scenario is obviously not the answer.
It all starts with talent. Better coaches will train better players and turn them into stars potentially. The money from sponsors can come only after that. Unfortunately, the salary cap is also a big obstacle. It is easy for good players to go play in Scotland or England for significantly more money.