Thursday 23 November 2017

Irish clubs are ready to take on Barcelona

THE poor showing of Airtricity League clubs in Europe this summer, with the notable exception of Shamrock Not Rovers Anymore, should not be cause for too much concern.

The FAI can rest happy in the knowledge that the cavalry, in the form of UEFA's Financial Fairplay policy, is about to ride to the rescue. When it does, and the spend, spend, spend merchants of the big European clubs are reined in, Irish football will be poised to take full advantage.

You see, while the FAI have been busy over the last few seasons making sure that Irish clubs are compliant with the new licensing system -- the main thrust of which is that clubs aren't allowed to spend more than they earn -- the giants of Europe have been taking full advantage of the lead-in period to blow their budgets on wages to the best players in the world.

Barcelona, as a random example, recorded a €77m loss last season, even though the previous board had claimed it as an €11m profit. With income of €408.9m and costs totalling €477.9m, the stark reality is that Barcelona would not be allowed to play in the Airtricity Premier Division and would struggle to gain a place in the First Division.

Come the dawn of the 2013/'14 season everyone, not just the Irish, will have to comply with the new regime and we'll be all set. So let's have a quick recap: UEFA, fair play, big clubs, comply, break-even requirement, same rules for everyone. What could possibly go wrong?

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DUSTIN JOHNSON could be forgiven, or at least understood, if he had refused to accept the two-shot penalty that cost him a place in the play-off for the PGA title at Whistling Straits last Sunday.

You could hardly blame him if he had launched an appeal, and then another appeal if that one failed, and then gone through the court system until he had exhausted every avenue, and then whinged about it if he still didn't get his way. But he didn't. Why? Because golf, above all else, is a game of honour.

It is not without its cheats, of course, and it can be particularly unedifying to see professionals argue for (and often get) free drops from places where the club player has to take his punishment.

But once a decision is made, rulings are accepted with remarkable dignity. Soccer and Gaelic games could learn a lot from this attitude.

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AS Liverpool marched to victory over Trabzonspor on Thursday night, ITV's commentary team of Clive Tyldesley and Jim Beglin turned their thoughts to off-field matters.

Clive thought it unlikely that the deal to sell Liverpool would be completed before the end of the month, while Jim wasn't too perturbed, expressing the view that the most important thing was to do it properly this time, to sell the club to someone with the best interests of the club at heart.

It's extraordinary to think that someone of Beglin's experience in the game could be so naive. Football is a business and almost all of those involved are in it to make as much money as possible for themselves.

Players don't have the best interests of their club at heart, managers don't have the best interests of their club at heart, so why should we expect owners to be any different? The only ones with the best interests of their club at heart are the fans -- coincidentally the only ones with no money.

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Someone once wrote that the GAA combines the two worst aspects of Irish society in perfect harmony -- short bursts of violence punctuated by committee meetings.

Whatever about the merits of that statement, we reckon you won't find anyone in the South Tipperary board disagreeing with it. For the third time this year a match under its jurisdiction failed to finish because of violence. In April, well-known ref Willie Barrett abandoned a game after he was struck by a supporter; then a few weeks back a junior football match came to a premature end after a fracas developed.

The latest incident, last weekend, saw Barrett again forced to abandon a match, this time between Ballingarry and Moyle Rovers after a supporter from Ballingarry allegedly struck a Rovers player, prompting a serious melee which lasted several minutes.

Fergus McDonnell

Sunday Independent

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