Thursday 28 May 2015

If Rosenborg can attract 20,000 fans, why can't League of Ireland teams?

Published 18/07/2014 | 17:02

The Aviva was packed for Liverpool v Celtic last year
The Aviva was packed for Liverpool v Celtic last year

There could be a European ticket scramble very soon. Celtic may be coming to town.

Dust down your old Hooped jersey and half and half scarf from the Bhoys’ Aviva clash with Liverpool last year, log on to Ticketmaster and secure your place at this showpiece if it happens.

And it could well be in the Aviva Stadium too. Pat’s home ground in Inchicore is not up to UEFA requirements and Tallaght Stadium may be too small to accommodate the large crowds that will no doubt take advantage of seeing their team live if this match comes to fruition.

That’s the plus side. Irish-based Celtic fans will get to see their team in competitive action on Irish soil.

The downside is that the majority of people in attendance would be supporting a Scottish team over an Irish one.

Let’s leave the Barstool Debate to one side here - every person is entitled to choose what team they support. If that so happens to be a team from another country, so be it. But why not choose both?

Take Rosenborg for example. A team from a country with a population of around five million people. And that’s not where the similarities with Ireland end.

Every week, thousands of Norwegians flock to Anfield and Old Trafford to take in the Premier League, just like they do from this country.

And this is where the similarities end. Rosenborg, beaten on their own patch by Sligo Rovers last night, had an average gate of 14,806 last season with their highest attendance over 20,000.

The League of Ireland bashers will cite the poor standard of football as a reason to stay away. Yet in Norway, up to 20,000 will pay in to watch Rosenberg and 15,000 to SK Brann.

The sub-standard argument just does not wash anymore.

It’s a far cry from the quality and flair of the English Premier League, but the League of Ireland has plenty to offer as we saw this week with the results in Europe.

With more bums on seats, our own league could thrive. And the kick and rush tactics of previous years are becoming a thing of the past with Pat's and Sligo embracing a passing game with the focus on ball retention.

The 300 or so Pat’s fans that travelled to Warsaw epitomise what being a true football fan is all about. They didn’t expect too many fireworks and champagne football on the pitch against an opposition team littered with internationals.

They were not there as customers, attracted by success and entertaining, easy-on-the-eye football.

They were expecting an ugly yet gutsy, backs- to-the wall performance and probably a defeat.

What they got was a performance and result that justified their attendance among barely a thousand others week in, week out in grounds around Ireland.

They have been through bad, bad times like all League of Ireland teams but have come out on the other side as champions of Ireland and are now 90 minutes away from a Champions League third round qualifier against Glasgow Celtic.

Should they get there, every football fan in this country should be damn proud of them. And every football fan in this country should stand up and take note. Maybe there is something to see every Friday night in the League of Ireland.

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