Monday, January 22, 2007

The Utopian League

Dermot Ahern, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs dropped his trousers recently, bent over and allowed the Irish football fan an unpleasant moment. From his anal orifice the Dundalk-based politician talked about the need to merge the island's footballing bodies.

Not a universally popular topic, and if this arseburst was provoked by the upcoming election south of the border, it has if you'll pardon the pun, backfired. The prospect of an All Ireland league has merit; the possibility of an All Ireland national side is doomed to failure.

Cynics will point to the cull that would ensue if there were to be a single governing body on the island. All those blazers losing their perks - cabbages voting for vegeterianism! The NI football addict is being callously ignored by Minister Ahern. How?

Figures have been tossed about relating to sports played on our lovely green island which are run on an all-island basis. The common ground suggests that there are over 30 such bodies. This means that the area known as Ulster, the Six Counties, Northern Ireland - call it what you will - is poorly served by representative sports. Sawker, as those knowledegable Americans know it, is the most high profile sport through which the people of the North can identify with their homeland.

And they are fiercely proud of what their country have achieved on the world stage. And they want to keep it. So let them.

As for an All Ireland league, well that is a bit sexy. The Setanta Cup has titillated; but one wonders how much longer the TV channel will stay involved. They are expanding faster than a builder's wallet; will the Setanta Cup be big enough for them after their current commitment has expired? The channel is seriously challenging Sky Sports' domination in this part of the world, and this could mean we get left behind.

So football clubs on this island do need to come together in an effort to al least maintain the current level of TV interest. There is an element of the Emperor's New Clothes about a new league in whatever format. But there is little to lose. Many speak of the possibility of expanding the Setanta Cup.

At first glance, this is a comfortable compromise. But more teams means more fixtures. Travelling support is generally miserable for midweek games, so to extract the maximum attendance from the initially novel contests we would need weekend fixtures; of course the sponsors will still need a tasty tie for their midweek schedule. How do we fit the extra games into a crowded calendar?

It could only be done by scrapping another competition. The most likely victim would be the League Cup; as it is the Republic's European qualifiers don't enter that competition until the latter stages. The Northern participants would probably need to abandon their regional cup competitions and alter the format of the CIS Cup - possibly abandoning the Group stages for a straightforward KO competition.

There is the option of adjusting the format of the Setanta Cup; but it appears to work well as it is. Ultimately, where the potential for financial gain exists, changes can be made. The Setanta Cup presently is our Champions League, the most lucrative prize available to our clubs. Ergo, the clubs will bend to suit. So let's see how far we can take it, before we start to talk Utopia.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home