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'Our treasurer is doing some number-crunching on how long we can survive'

Cork City chairman Declan Carey on the financial strain his club is under and the initiatives being undertaken to lessen these problems.

A general view of Turner's Cross.
A general view of Turner's Cross.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Updated at 14.42

A RECENT IRISH Times supporter survey suggested Cork City were the sixth most popular club in Ireland, just behind Barcelona and Arsenal, with 7% of the nation’s sporting public backing them.

In these difficult times, the Leesiders will need all the support they can get from those fans of the club, as will every other League of Ireland side.

It is not an exaggeration to say that some teams are in danger of going out of business, given the significant loss of revenue caused by match postponements prompted by the coronavirus outbreak.

There is a palpable tension in light of these circumstances, with reports yesterday that the Professional Footballers’ Association of Ireland were chasing a €1 million loan to help teams get through the shutdown crisis.

Yet finding themselves in a challenging position financially is nothing new for a number of domestic clubs, and they have proved resourceful during similarly taxing situations in the past.

Plenty of Irish teams are coming up with initiatives that will go some way towards compensating for the raft of postponements that have just been announced.

Shamrock Rovers are selling match programmes for tonight’s cancelled clash with Finn Harps online.

Meanwhile, Finn Harps are selling virtual tickets for their postponed games, with all purchases valid for when the games are rescheduled. The club are also encouraging fans to join their 500 club, with advance payment options available, while they also say they are planning a major fundraising draw for later in the year.

In addition, to keep fans entertained, Sligo Rovers are live tweeting the RTÉ Sport coverage of the 1994 FAI Cup final this evening.

And Cork, who have had a challenging time financially this season even before the coronavirus outbreak, are already planning a number of initiatives as they attempt to lessen the stresses caused by recent developments. 

The fact that they find themselves second from bottom in the Premier Division table with three points from five games must feel like the least of their worries at this juncture.

“I think everyone’s banding together really,” the club’s chairman, Declan Carey, tells The42. “There’s a general type of nervousness that you’d expect with anything like this.

It’s the same in any business. When your main source of income is stopped, we immediately start looking at areas that we can drive revenue through certain streams and try to keep players, staff and all the employers at ease as much as we can.”

Even after its cancellation, in a show of solidarity, Cork supporters were continuing to buy tickets for tonight’s previously arranged home match against Bohs, while jerseys have been driving a considerable portion of their revenue in recent seasons.

Commercial deals with the likes of Elverys and Lifestyle Sports will continue, while the club are planning to relaunch their season-ticket package

“There are two home games gone and we might do a discounted offer for anyone who wants to buy a revised season ticket at a lower cost,” Carey explains. “So that’s something we’re looking at. We have to make sure it makes financial sense, of course, and that will impact future cash flows when the games do take place.”

reyon-dillon-dejected Cork City have experienced a challenging start to the season both on and off the pitch. Source: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO

Still, despite these alternative plans for the next few weeks, generating the necessary income will prove a change.

“Our treasurer is doing some number-crunching on how long we can survive without a home game and the impact on other revenue streams of not having home games.

“Even just shutting down our club shop on match night, which is a huge revenue generator as well. Not having other activities that bring in revenue for home game — match sponsors, match ball sponsors, these kind of things will definitely all have knock-on effects from not having games.

“We’ll crunch the numbers on it, but initial signs on it are that we’ll be okay for this month anyway and a lot of April. Eventually, as we move into having three or four games postponed, that’s when we’ll start facing challenges and I’m sure other clubs will be in the exact same place as us. 

I would say any League of Ireland club are two or three home games away from a potential crisis, which is unfortunate. That’s just the nature of the beast. There has been a lot of the work going on even outside of this with the FAI in the last few months in terms of restructuring the league with more commercial and TV revenues that would limit the impact attendances would have on a club’s budget.

“It’s just unfortunate now that this has come to the fore while a lot of those healthy discussions were ongoing with the FAI — another stakeholder. It’s very unfortunate timing, but it does highlight the weakness within the League of Ireland structure.

“I don’t think the FAI would leave any clubs go to the wall if that was eventually happening, so I maintain hope that some solutions will be offered by the FAI through the government and Uefa, but we can only hope and we’ll wait for communication on that.”

Carey has been a long-time Cork City supporter. In February 2018, he joined their board, before becoming chairman last January.

There have been times in the past where the club have appeared on the brink of collapse. But Carey can never recall another situation quite like this, with all football in Ireland suspended until 29 March at the earliest and quite possibly beyond that.

“The whole footballing community in Ireland should band together now and once we come out the other side of this, we can start looking at the harder questions in terms of how do we prevent it from having such an impact.

Clubs in the UK, for example, they’re talking about playing games behind closed doors, which is fine, because they’ve so much other commercial revenues and TV revenues coming in that they can facilitate that. It’s a great luxury to have. It’d be great if, in Ireland, in our professional game, we had similar luxuries, but unfortunately, we don’t.

“That’s ultimately where we need to get to — that having two or three games postponed doesn’t cause an absolute crisis in the professional game here in the country. It’s absolutely criminal. It shouldn’t happen. And once this all blows over, hopefully sooner rather than later, we can start having those more difficult conversations.”

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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