Monday 18 December 2017

New goal for Stephanie Roche is to stay in spotlight

Hard work starts now for Ireland's Puskas contender if she is to capitalise on adventure

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

WHAT now for Stephanie Roche?

The woman of the moment has been propelled to a previously unimaginable level of celebrity after her wonder effort for Peamount United belatedly attracted worldwide attention, even if 1.1million global votes was not enough to stop James Rodriguez taking the Puskas Award.

She has become a household name, with a social media profile that has exploded thanks to some extremely high-profile cheerleading from all walks of life.

And yet, it emerged last week that Roche had only earned the princely sum of €250 from her new-found fame.

Roche was halfway through the media circus when she finally enlisted the services of an agent, Eamon McLoughlin, to deal with the volume of interest and he will be able to negotiate on her behalf for whatever comes next.

McLoughlin's clients include Ireland international James McClean, a player who also had to cope with a meteoric rise in a short space of time.

The difference, of course, is that he did so in the men's game, where the earning potential is astonishing. No such wages are available in the women's sphere.

Impression

It's important to stress that Roche has never been in this for the money. She has made a positive impression by embracing the spotlight as an avenue to promote the women's game.

Still, her free gratis presence at the type of promotional events where a member of Martin O'Neill's squad could command a few thousand euro for appearing in sponsor-driven photos illustrates the need for the Dubliner to realise her value at this juncture and plan ahead.

Others have done better from their exploits. Her former boss at Peamount Eileen Gleeson managed to agree a deal with Mark Little's news agency Storyful after uploading the video of her heroics to YouTube.

The arrangement gave Storyful control over 'monetisation, distribution and protection' of a clip that has been viewed over five million times.

Last week, in an interview with a group of Sunday newspapers, Roche said she was a tad bemused by any suggestion that she's hit the jackpot.

"People are telling me I should be making so much before the awards but I'm like 'really?'" she said. "I've got €10 in my pocket, so it's not happening.

"I've got €250 from the video and that was it. I've put a lot of effort into football over the years without having so much to show for it, so it would be nice to get something out of it."

Her day job situation is unknown for now after she parted company with French side ASPTT Albi following a brief spell. Roche's former coach said she was bound for a 'richer club', although it has been reported that she was earning just €800 a month in France.

England and Sweden have been floated as possible destinations for the 25-year-old as she plots the next step in her professional career. There is no pot of gold available, though.

In England, their senior international side are paid by the FA through the medium of centralised contracts worth £20,000 a year.

Players work in secondary jobs, such as coaching, to supplement their income. Emma Byrne, the Irish goalkeeper at Arsenal, has gone down that route to add to modest semi-pro earnings.

Meanwhile, in Sweden, it's estimated that the average monthly salary for professional players is in the region of €1,200.

America is a popular location for younger players on scholarships but the senior pro league there has had a stop-start existence. The top rate of pay is $30,000 (€25,000) per season with some individuals picking up just $6,000 (€5,100).

This is why better known faces simply have to examine every endorsement option to boost their earnings.

Roche, who admits she is a homebird, has admitted that she would love to be able to work in Ireland but that's not really a runner if she wants to stay full-time.

As she says herself: "If we're going to have full-time footballers, the game in Ireland requires more funding and publicity to get crowds at the National League games and let the players be paid for what they do."

With crowds as small as 50 people turning out to watch Irish internationals line out in the Women's National League, that vision is a long way off.

Roche will have to trade off her own name for now. Living overseas complicates her availability for ambassadorial roles, but her confidence in front of a microphone should open doors.

Becoming the go-to person for the panel show and talking head market - a world where the savvy can pick up €500 here and €1,000 there - can generate a few quid.

Goodwill

Overall, though, it's hard to estimate a bottom-line figure of what this adventure could be worth as the public will have a big say.

The concerted voting campaign generated amazing goodwill, a classic case of the Irish appetite for a short-term focused cause. Maintaining long-term interest is a harder task.

Unquestionably, the Shankill woman will be a hook to drive the promotion of Sue Ronan's senior international fixtures in the coming year. A strong response through the turnstile will be required as evidence that there is mileage for sponsors.

Her tale to date has been a case of 15 months of fame rather than 15 minutes, but she needs to strike when the iron is hot to remain in the Irish consciousness and make a proper living from her passion.

Irish Independent

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