Wednesday 21 March 2018

Comment: Silence on League's prize fund tells its own story

FAI Competition Director Fran Gavin Photo: Sportsfile
FAI Competition Director Fran Gavin Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Last February, the FAI press release klaxon sounded with the news that League of Ireland prize-money had increased.

It transpired that a deal with Austrian company TRACKCHAMP was the driving force for a rise in the total pot from €315,500 to €475,000.

Of course, the FAI had played a part in negotiating that deal but it didn't quite silence the school of thought that the Abbotstown authorities should be pumping more money into the local game - especially given the success of Martin O'Neill's side in qualifying for the Euros and the rewards that come with it.

After all, with the FAI hierarchy stressing that the finances are in a better position, the senior clubs would like to see the benefit of that - the Premier Clubs Alliance (PCA) have instigated discussions with the association because they are seeking more clarity on the value of sponsorship deals and the cost of running the league.

At this year's league launch, competitions director Fran Gavin indicated that news on this year's prize-money was a week away. Clubs subsequently received correspondence which confirmed there is no change from 2016; that kind of information is unlikely to be accompanied by a PR push.

There had been murmurs over the winter that the figure was about to go up again, yet that was tied in with the ongoing debate over the change of structure to a 10-team Premier Division for 2018.

And with meetings between the FAI and the clubs' representatives ongoing, there is a feeling that the new structure for next term will be accompanied by an increase although it remains to be seen if the bottom line benefit is for the Premier clubs. The prospect of a parachute payment for sides dropping down to the First Division had been floated in discussions.

Certainly, the sides scrapping to stay at the top level this year will not have prize-money as a motivation.

The teams that finish 11th and 12th in the Premier Division will collect €17,000. The affiliation fee for entry in the top flight is €17,000. In other words, they get their money back. Tenth place receives €17,500 with the rewards going up on a sliding scale to €35,000 for third, €55,000 for second and €110,000 for the league winners.

Down in the First Division, it's a similar story with the bottom two picking up €8,000 which is the fee for participating at that level. It's small money when the costs of fielding teams are calculated.

Dundalk's exploits in Europe last year put the domestic funds into perspective. They collected in the region €6.7m from a remarkable run - that's about 60 league titles' worth. Progress through early-stage Europa League games is also worth circa €200,000 a round.

It means that the real value of success at home is entry to the European raffle. That's a risky business for clubs who will have to spend big to get there.

Irish Independent

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