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Significant sums of money at stake when Irish clubs opt to postpone a game

League of Ireland columnist John O’Sullivan takes an in-depth look at the delicate balancing act facing Cork City.

THERE’S ALWAYS A decision to be made between cost and success.

Should clubs get into financial difficulty, the first signs are when cashflow is an issue, then the bills that simply must be paid in the coming weeks outweigh the likely and available income. Options quickly fall into getting a bridging loan, arranging a hasty fundraiser, calling creditors to ask for additional time or sometimes simply burying heads in sand.

A view of fans at Turners Cross Sunset at a Cork City v Shamrock Rovers clash on Leeside last year. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

In the early days of FORAS’ ownership of Cork City, a number of board members arrived at Turner’s Cross with personal savings in their pockets to cover bills and wages in case one particular home game, our only one across a seven-week period, hadn’t attracted a sufficient attendance.

Scheduling of fixtures is vital to clubs’ financial well-being, and that’s probably not very well understood. For a club like Cork City, a postponed fixture, replayed away from your regular match night, could cost well over €20,000.

Significant sum

City were due to play Shamrock Rovers tomorrow night, a fixture already moved from the club’s regular Friday night slot due to the clashing international friendly against Switzerland tonight. The club announced that they would postpone this fixture as a result of Kevin O’Connor and Sean Maguire receiving call-ups to the U21 International side in last night’s game against Italy. It’s a decision likely to cost the club in the region of €18,000 in ticket sales and another €2-3,000 in match night revenue in programme sales etc.

For any club around the league, that’s a significant sum of money.

The decision suits Cork City in terms of success; rescheduling the game means that when they do face Shamrock Rovers, they will be at full strength. There is no doubt that John Caulfield will have pushed strongly for the postponement.

Some have cynically suggested it further suits Caulfield as Greg Bolger will have a red card suspension over by the time the Shamrock Rovers game comes around. That is possibly as important to Caulfield, facing another contender for the title, as having his international players back.

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John Caulfield Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

There is a significant cost to consider though.  The likelihood is that the game will be rescheduled for a Monday or Tuesday night later in the season. Last season, Cork City’s average home gate was 3,144. Until their title challenge faded in the last series of games, Cork City’s average home attendance on a Friday was 4,133, with their game against Shamrock Rovers bringing in 4,138 supporters. However, their average attendance for home, mid-week, fixtures was significantly less at 2,333.

This season, City have played at home twice bringing in 4,028 on a Friday night against Bohs and 2,302 on Monday night against Longford. Already showing figures remarkably consistent with last season. In theory, with ticket pricing levels at €15, €10 and €5, City probably average €11-12 in ticket spend for each person in the ground. A 1,700 drop in attendance should cost over €18,000 in gate receipts.

In reality, because a greater percentage of those in attendance on a Monday will be season ticket holders, the effect might be even more pronounced. Also, there is the impact on the usually excellent travelling numbers from Tallaght.

City, of course, are one club pretty well-placed to ride out such a cost, especially in March when they still have the buffer of strong season ticket sales and clubs have become used to dealing with such gaps, typically across the period encompassing the mid-season break, clubs will go four, maybe even six weeks without a home match.

We supporters tend to be creatures of habit, but bear in mind that if your club reschedules a fixture, or if a game is moved from your regular match night to accommodate an international friendly against Switzerland, your support on the rescheduled night is possibly even more important to your club than you might realise.

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