Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tarnished Goods

Just like our once rampant economy, professional football in Ireland was built on an unsustainable air pocket which would eventually burst to leave those who once rested on it struggling for life. Close scrutiny of the reasons for our financial difficulties may yield varying explanations - in the case of Galway United and Sligo Rovers for example, some rapid realignment was required to ensure that they fell within the parameters of their own projections in order to fulfil their wage cap obligations - even the Irish government were forced into similar actions with their 2009 Budget. In the case of Cork City, Arkaga saw the light after Platinum 1 had packed their kit and high-tailed it out of Ireland.

Drogheda United's claret and blueprint for success reached three of its points with an FAI Cup win, Setanta Cup double and a League title. The elusive planning permission proved a bridge too far for the investors and the snuggest club in Ireland are fast approaching a nadir without a Plan A2.

Today's threatened strike action by the players has shed the club of its last remaining shred of dignity. That's not to deny the players their right to take action; although there are many who hold their profession culpable in the mire in which Irish football finds itself.

I hold neither footballers nor managers responsible for the money that clubs have spent. It is the job of a board to direct operations, construct budgets and employ managers who have no option but to adhere to same. Should a player ask for more money and a manager ask for funds to assuage the pro, it is the board who decide whether or not to furnish the readies.

But yes, we are and have been seeing players being paid beyond the range of their talent; just as we have seen cowboys masquerading as craftsmen earning inordinate sums of money to talk to us about building a wall.

There are those among us who will welcome this 'readjustment' - it may have come at too high a price though. The eircom League and all who sail in her are damaged goods. The fabricated controversies around betting patterns have helped to undermine our integrity; the Gary Dempsey affair was an opportunity for the meeja to throw some accelerant onto the pyre. What the likeable Pats midfielder did was against the spirit of the game in every moral aspect, but a far cry from roasting a drunken teenage girl with your teammates a la the preferred Premiership model.

If it is the tip of an unseen iceberg, then let there be light. Otherwise, move on. Whether or no, these unfavourable stories will make it even more difficult to attract advertising revenues into the game, at a time when clubs can ill afford it. Again, this points to that 'readjustment' word. Even before this season has had time to revel in its highs - Bohs' colossal points total, Pats and Drogs in Europe - there appears to be a dull dawn ahead in the early Spring of 2009.

There is plenty to laud in the League of Ireland; volunteers doing what Mary O'Rourke might describe as the work of 1000's 'black Arabs'; fundraising, scouting, painting, whatever needs doing. There are two things we have failed to do during the boom times, such as they were - build a cohort of modern grounds and sort out the Health Service. The ailing duo must limp on for the foreseeable.

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