Electric launch to new season
THE chaos which has defined the past 12 months of the League of Ireland is represented by two pages placed side by side, due to the alphabet's sick sense of humour, in the comprehensive media guide produced for the 2010 campaign.
In the First Division section of the newly branded Airtricity League, the competitors from Cork and Derry are paired together.
The boxes for their 10-year record are completely blank, a stark reminder of all that has been wasted.
The newly formed Cork City Foras Co-Op, who are expected to make further announcements today with respect to their plans after a rapid emergence, will ironically start their season in Derry against the club which has kept its name but was forced to change its hierarchy after a shambolic departure from the top flight.
It's going to be a strange Premier Division without the two regional powers. The obvious question to ask of Kevin Greenhorn, the managing director of new title sponsors, Airtricity, who were unveiled at the D4 Hotel yesterday morning, is why get involved now?
"Yes, we had some concerns," he responded. "But when we sat down with John Delaney and the FAI and had a look at the blueprint for the future, it was promising.
"I think we have got in at a fantastic time. The league is only going in one direction and that's up."
Of course, the tempting response -- almost as tempting as a series of puns related to a fresh wind, hot air, a new spark or any other electricity-related gags coming to a headline near you -- is that the only way is up because the domestic game's reputation has hit rock bottom.
Certainly, this year's launch was markedly different to the more salubrious affairs of recent times. Managers weren't invited, while there were no press releases about prize money because the powers that be haven't decided whether they will reduce it or not.
FAI CEO Delaney defended the delay in an announcement until next week, in addition to arguing that the Abbotstown authorities were blameless in the Cork affair and an emerging controversy with respect to the transfer of Limerick FC's licence from one company to another, with Jack McCarthy, the original holder, claiming to be left in the dark.
"We've put a lot of money into the league over the last few years," said Delaney, with respect to the prize money. "We'll look at our overall budget in terms of what it costs to run the league next week. Club budgets have dropped."
Delaney accepted that the demise of Cork City did not reflect well on the league as a whole, but said that the fault essentially lay with Tom Coughlan, part of his oft-repeated argument that the actions of owners rather than administrators are the cause of the game's problems.
"The biggest success that we have to bring to bear is the culture of the owners," he said. "Cork was one example where the owner ran the club in a cavalier manner. He didn't listen and it was unfortunate what happened. Derry are another example of that.
"At the end of the season, we brought the disrepute charge (against Coughlan). I'm disappointed that the club wasn't taken over in that period.
"I think a deal could have been done and indeed should have been done."
So, was he saying that the FAI did nothing wrong. "Nobody is blameless," he responded. "But what I see is a lot of improvements which I don't think have been recognised as well as they should be. The clubs had losses of €7m a few years ago, they are now down to €2.7m and they will be less next season."
Airtricity become title sponsors, with their commitment estimated to be in the region of €750,000 per year.
They have provisionally agreed a three-year deal, although the final year is dependent on the member clubs voting to keep the FAI in control of the league when the current participation agreement expires at the end of the 2011 campaign.