Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Management

I believe last season can be deemed a success - the first year of the new golden age of domestic football under the chauffeurship of the FAI passed almost uneventfully by. Longford Town received an asterisk - however it was not a controversial ruling. There were no registration horror shows, as the administrative strands of the game were being put into some order.

Possibly the biggest grinch that supporters could have with the new regime was the sometimes inexplicable and often amusing array of sanctions imposed on clubs throughout the 2007 campaign. For sanctions read fines - for the clubs deemed to have broken the rules by allowing supporters to support were invariably hit in the pocket. So much so that it was becoming a nice little earner for the FAI.

Cynics would support such an assertion; although poor pitches, unruly supporters and bottle throwers do not conspire to attract families to football matches. Possibly the most tyrannical application of disciplinary prowess has come in the form of fines for flares - no not a punishment for fashion faux-pas, but a levy on clubs who allow supporters to light such fireworks within the confines of an eL venue.

To most onlookers these objects certainly add to the atmosphere & excitement, lending spice to the prematch build-up. The smoke produced can provide a temporary distraction - especially for TV cameras - but the positives outweigh the negatives. There may be crowd safety issues, but it would seem possible to cordon off a small area at either side/end of a ground where they can be ignited safely.

The early stages of change are often uncomfortable and rarely without teething problems. For years we have bemoaned the lack of organisation; the disjointed attempts at promoting the product; the incestuous infighting amongst club representatives, and the rest. Out came John Delaney's whip to bring a perceived shimmer to proceedings and it has worked.

Yes - problems remain - mainly on the financial side. Strict constraints and checks are making it more difficult for clubs to muddy their financial affairs however. In theory this prevents the possibility of a club drowning in a sea of well-hidden debt; it inflicts the need for good habits and better procedures in the approach to off-field affairs.

The biggest embarrassment of last season was surely the strip debacle at the Cork City v Bray Wanderers televised fixture (the visiting side were forced to play in an old away strip belonging to the hosts, complete with blacked out sponsorship logos and blacked out player's names) - my assumption is that there will be no repeat in 2008.

CPO's proved their worth - it's all still in its infancy. Ground improvements must follow - Mammies want to bring their precious cargo to nice shiny McFootball venues. It's not a vista beloved of hardcore fans but it points the way to survival and success. Bums on seats mean fuller stadia. Fuller stadia will look better on the impending highlights show on RTE; a more polished presentation makes it more difficult for the gripers to knock.

Such growth breeds interest; breeds improved sponsorship; breeds better players. The importance of instilling in youngsters - and the world of schoolboy and junior football - that the eL provides a viable stepping stone, better still a viable career for young footballers, cannot be overstated.

We must hold our nerve for a few more seasons; support the efforts of the professional clubs to advance themselves; support the efforts of the FAI to solidify their framework while lending polish to the image and reputation of League of Ireland football.

Labels: ,

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home