Soccer: Financial assumptions
“Are ye in financial trouble again?” That’s what one gentleman asked a member of Cork City’s Board of Management recently when purchasing tickets for Wednesday night’s friendly v Manchester Utd.
Naturally enough, the City man enquired as to why the gent thought that the club was having problems. “Well, ye always arrange these games when ye’re in debt.”
This isn’t exactly true, but the gentleman could be forgiven for making that assumption, given the situation immediately prior to FORAS taking over. Back then, which wasn’t very long ago, though it seems now like a different age entirely, a friendly v Glasgow Celtic was hastily arranged in order to assist in paying an overdue tax bill. I’m happy to report, no such problem exists on this occasion.
When FORAS took over, the supporters who made up the membership made the decision to never again put the existence of the club in jeopardy. This means keeping careful control of the finances and as a FORAS member, and therefore trustee of the club, I’ve got the greatest admiration for those who actually put themselves forward for election to the Board of Management.
So why the sudden rash of friendlies, particularly at such a busy time in our season? It’s true that such matches have been used in the past as a fund-raising exercise, with or without a financial crisis to deal with. In the modern era, there are some added complications, not least of which is that we in Ireland have switched to a summer season. This means that what is a pre-season friendly for our English visitors tends to happen at the most inopportune time, football-wise for City and other Irish clubs. Last season, the fixture v Birmingham City was pretty much given to the club as a win-win situation. The Brummies were in Ireland for a few days pre-season training and they wanted a match against a local side. The club accepted, hoping that a professional, well-organised staging of the fixture might lead to more attractive fixtures in the future.
The club could of course turn down the offer and concentrate on the competitive fixtures in the league, but that would mean turning down a possible cash windfall. Given the instability currently affecting the League of Ireland, no club can afford to turn down any sort of financial boost. City have already lost one home fixture following the withdrawal of Monaghan Utd, so that money must be made up somewhere. As part of the budgetary discipline now required of clubs, regular financial reports must be prepared and set against the pre-season budget plan. Where a club’s budget goes off-plan, realistic proposals are expected as to how stability is to be restored.
The three friendlies in a short space of time, particularly Wednesday’s fixture v Manchester Utd will hopefully more than cover the loss of the Monaghan fixture. So you may ask what will City do with the rest? Well, at the moment, the club doesn’t even own a blade of grass. There is an intention to develop a proper training facility, since it is recognised that the underage setup is crucial to the future well-being of the club. It is also intended to carefully strengthen the team and to develop a permanent club base. In short, put down roots and to give supporters a focal point for the club.
First things first, however. Let’s get the fans through the turnstiles. Always an effective way of raising money.
Maybe in a year or two, when we have the likes of Barcelona or real Madrid coming to Cork, some gent will ask “Are ye building a new stadium?”