Thursday, June 14, 2007

the way ahEAd

It may trip from the tongue as easily as ancient Greek, but the eircom League community owe even a whispered ‘thank you’ to the marketing gurus employed by the FAI; exponentially to the FAI itself. There, I’ve written it.

I picked up many a paper this past week and enjoyed the pleasurable experience of spotting a piece highlighting the domestic league’s newly announced association with EA Sports in FIFA ’08. These inserts were accompanied by various seductive shots of some of the Premier Division’s leading players.

Why if I was of a mind to I’d be leading the protests against the images of these young men being exploited; ridden rock solid even in the pursuit of vulgar profit. But this is vulgarity in its finery, like an Archbishop in his civvies – so I’ll let it rest.

The photos were the most immediately striking part of this assault on the pockets of parents and childlike adults across the nation. For the first time that I can recall, our very own players looked the part off the field. This is not to imply that they never look the part on the field; although this is sometimes the case with even the best of footballers.

In their EA shirts and new fangled hairstyles the players present presented as cutting and sharp an image as that to which we aspire for our league; still it represented the sort of glamourisation of football that we regularly heap scorn upon.

It is inevitable that much of how the LOI is perceived owes greatly to the behemoth that is the FA Premiership. That stuffed piggy bank of football can make our operation look like the jar you throw your coppers into on a Saturday morning. If we are to appeal to the generations, young and not so young, we have to show that we can compete; even if it is through superficial means.

I believe that there is a consensus of opinion amongst diehards that our product can compete on the field. Not in the sense that Derry City will be ending Chelsea’s interest in the Champion’s League this season; but in the sense that a night out at an eLOI game can match the tension, atmosphere and excitement of plasma screen football.

Associations form a large percentage of perception; this new association can lift Irish football into a new orbit in the eyes of the Playstation generation; once we continue to build up the profile of the game and force the awareness that the players can be seen in action just down the road.

There is a question which continues to pester. Should the league continue to build on the early successes of this season; should the crowds continue to grow; should the players achieve public worship and improved monies, will the diehards feel that it’s just not the same?

I for one don't want it to remain'the same'. Progression not regression. The FAI have done the league some service, as promised; hopefully with the European games around the corner, we can enjoy a glamour tie and build some more on the increasingly positive perception of the league.

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