The decision of Monaghan United to withdraw from the Airtricty League has thrown fresh doubt on the long term future of other clubs as fears mount that Irish domestic soccer is facing its biggest crisis to date.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the ensuing fallout has fuelled talk that others, including the likes of Longford Town, could follow.
Sitting proudly at the top of the Aitricity League First Division, the midlanders have enjoyed a more than favourable start to the 2012 season. That said, the club, as PRO Donald Keogh pointed out this week, expressed concern at the economic crisis that is threatening to engulf the domestic game.
“We are getting by, but it’s a struggle,” he said, claiming dwindling numbers for the home league encounters remained a lingering sticking point. “If we could get more people through the turnstiles it would make things a bit easier,” he said.
To garner increased support, club organisers have introduced added concessions to supplement more mainstream sources of revenue such as the club’s weekly lotto and match day sponsors. Yet, filling empty seats is one thing. Keogh, who boasts a near 30 year association with Longford Town FC, knows all too well about the financial challenges facing clubs.
Taking time to collect his thoughts, the life-long soccer fanatic said the focus on keeping a tight reign on day to day financial affairs has never been greater.
“When you (club) apply for a licence, you have to produce what you are going to earn. Sponsorship is hard to get, companies just haven’t the money,” he said.
The recession might have brought some sporting organisations to an abrupt halt, but according to Keogh, it’s not all doom and gloom.
“Running costs have come down, you have to cut your cloth,” he said, pausing to disclose players’ wages have fallen by around 30 per cent since their Celtic Tiger peak.
“It’s (wage structure) up to the management of a club and the team. We (Longford Town) have a budget and we stick religiously to it. If the manager wants to bring in a player, then there has to be one going the other way,” he said.
Besides strict transfer restrictions, there are many other factors to consider. The lure of locals making regular trips over to England to watch Premiership fixtures as well as the attraction of gaelic games back home have also presented their own challenges.
“A lot of our best supporters are gaelic fans, so the change from winter to summer soccer is a problem. We are all fighting our own corner and the way things are going we could have just one division of the league next year,” he confided.
On the topic of Monaghan’s enforced departure from the domestic soccer scene, the Longford Town PRO added: “I’m just devastated for them. When we used to go up there, it would be like a home game for us, it’s so disappointing.”
No doubt Keogh and his fellow Longford Town FC board members will be hoping that same sense of misfortune steers well clear of the local soccer club both this season and into the future.