Dundalk FC's Cammy Smith and Barry McNamee of Finn Harps during the teams' SSE Airtricity League Premier Division meeting at Finn Park prior to the league's suspension. (Pic: Sportsfile)
The notion of consensus among a cohort of parties with varying motives is beyond the pale. Hence the narrative pertaining to League of Ireland football and its potential return is a headache’s haven.
With so much at stake regarding finance and the future, it’s a case of everyone for themselves and where selfishness reigns in talks the likelihood of a satisfactory and logical outcome marginalises.
By the same token, it’s understandable that clubs, especially those operating off already slim pickings, are dubious and resentful of a comeback which, by nature, puts their very existences on the line.
Take the regional teams, Sligo Rovers and Finn Harps, as specific examples. The north-west pairing rely heavily on gate receipt revenue, community support acting as their lifeblood. How can they be expected to cater for bills when negotiating a fatal slash in income? You can only use reserves you have and the reality is that unlike Dundalk FC and Shamrock Rovers, the clubs most eager to get back to action, the others don’t have the credit to splash over the short-term.
Furthermore, costs will now surely be higher on matchdays. Granted stewards won’t be required, but stipulations will be published in relation to cleaner facilities which will prove to be more expensive than you would immediately imagine. On top of this, other typical gamenight income, such as refreshment and clubwear sales, will have to be written off.
While the argument implying that a failed season could set League of Ireland football back, quashing the levels of progress which have been made on the field over recent times, is valid, the consequences of forcing outfits back to the weekly grind, without regard for the levels of destruction it will cause them, could overrun Irish football domestically at a more rapid rate.
Put simply, there’s no amount of government or FAI support that can or could sustain clubs who rely almost exclusively on ticket takings.
And there seems to have been an ignorance towards the First Division throughout the process thus far. Dundalk know only too well what life is like in the second tier pit. Where do the Longford Towns, Galway Uniteds, Athlone Towns and Cobh Ramblers of the League of Ireland turn? How negatively impactful would their demise be on the areas they cater for?
Decades of good work in terms of spreading the game teeters on being lost and while the answer to the present predicament seems to be bound in a complex equation of quadratic proportions, applying pressure on clubs less fortunate than others goes beyond selfish and into the negligent category.
It’s not that long ago that there was talk of some sort of rising tide lifting all boats in the sense of League of Ireland performance in Europe being the key to the national division’s wider development standard-wise. But, really, if Covid-19’s dreadful reach has proven anything it’s that continental progression benefits the clubs who achieve it exclusively. The football form of the aristocracy mixed with the proletariat.
The elite could suffer from a responsible approach to restarting the League of Ireland, but if that ensures the safety of a higher number of teams then it’s worth investment.