Fall in wages shows tough Irish reality
The scale of the financial hardship Irish-based players are currently enduring was laid bare yesterday when PFAI secretary Stephen McGuinness revealed how far wages have fallen over the last seven years in the League of Ireland.
So while the tail-end of the Celtic Tiger resulted in more than 20 players earning in excess of €100,000, with one unnamed player taking home €180,000 in his basic salary, with bonuses pushing his income close to €200,000, both times, and payslips, have changed.
This year the highest earner in the League of Ireland is on €40,000 per year, while the average wage of a Premier Division player is just €16,000 per year and their First Division colleagues average €4,000 per annum.
"No player chooses to play professional football in Ireland as a way of becoming rich and famous," McGuinness bluntly said.
In fact, the vast majority are poor and anonymous. What concerns McGuinness, however, is the direction their lives are taking. Many players are struggling not just to make ends meet right now, but have no concrete plan for when retirement visits.
Hence, the PFAI's launch of their new job programme yesterday, a nationwide initiative designed to provide working opportunities for their members. "Our role is to ensure the players are tooled up so that when they call it a day, they have somewhere to go.
"The average age of players in our league is the youngest in Europe, at 24. We need to make sure they are aware that the day is coming when they have to retire.
"The take-up on the education side is not good enough. There is a self-confidence aspect to it where too many footballers think it is not for them. Football has been their life from such an early age and so many Irish players have gone across to England at 15, 16 and have not completed their Leaving Cert.
"As a union, we have to react to these findings. We have to look at the fact that many of our members need to re-enter the field of education and that many require skilled training to make them more employable.
"We have to take action."