Tuesday 20 August 2019

Cork City plays home game to build revenues

Creating a sustainable business in Irish football needs innovation

'The WinAGaff competition - run uniquely in conjunction with a local GAA club and a local amateur soccer club in the city - aims to raise €190,000 apiece for the three clubs after the costs of the competition are met.' Stock photo
'The WinAGaff competition - run uniquely in conjunction with a local GAA club and a local amateur soccer club in the city - aims to raise €190,000 apiece for the three clubs after the costs of the competition are met.' Stock photo

Fearghal O'Connor

Irish domestic football has proven to be a tough business - both on and off the pitch - in recent times, not least because of the crisis that the game's governing body has gone through in recent times.

One League of Ireland club that is waiting for urgent wider reforms in Irish football to ensure the sustainability of its own business has come up with a plan to temporarily plug any funding gaps. Cork City FC - which is owned by a group of 600 shareholder fans of the club - is raffling off an apartment.

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"This is pretty unique for a football club," said Cork City chief executive Paul Wycherley, who said the situation with the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) in recent times had meant that running the club as a sustainable business had been more difficult than it would have been in another country.

"It can't get any worse. We get no media rights, no commercial income from the FAI and we pay about €18,000 a year to be in the league," said Wycherley.

"It has taken the spotlight from the issues around corporate governance at the FAI to shine a light on the issues we have in the League of Ireland. Hopefully change at the FAI will also mean change for the League of Ireland."

The WinAGaff competition - run uniquely in conjunction with a local GAA club and a local amateur soccer club in the city - aims to raise €190,000 apiece for the three clubs after the costs of the competition are met.

It is part of a major fundraising drive by the professional football club, ahead of any of the hoped-for positive change, in order to ensure it meets its 2019 financial targets.

The club's 2018 turnover was approximately €2.9m but poor on-field results had seen attendances drop at the football club. 2019 turnover had been budgeted at approximately €2.4m but was now forecast to be closer to €2.2m.

"The reality is we budgeted for a certain figure, our attendances our down, the football has not been good, we are lower in the table than previous years and so the financial pressures of the gates has been very difficult. That has put pressures on other parts of the business and so the off-the-pitch revenue stream has to work even harder."

But Wycherley said that he was hopeful that efforts to reform the FAI would ultimately make it easier for clubs to run a sustainable business.

"When you look at the financing of a League of Ireland club, we currently get zero from our media rights - nothing.

"When you look at the TV deals in football around the world I would say we are the only, or certainly one of very few, football leagues where the clubs get zero for media rights. That has led to a lot of uncertainty for the business of League of Ireland clubs. We need more sustainable revenue streams and WinAGaff has that potential." Second prize is a car worth €18,495 with €1,000 in cash for third place.

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