The perilous financial situation faced by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) is shocking and sad for all those who love the sport. But this should not be allowed to cast a shadow on growing success of SSE Airtricity League of Ireland clubs.
Before the most recent news broke about the FAI, League of Ireland clubs were preparing for a new season with rising season ticket sales off the back of a growing interest in domestic football from fans and investors.
Last year, attendances at Bohemians were up 35%, Derry City up 26%, Shamrock Rovers up 21% and St Patrick’s Athletic up 17%. A record 7,021 people attended the big derby game between Shamrock Rovers and Bohs at the Tallaght Stadium last August and Richmond Park, Oriel Park, The Showgrounds and United Park all hosted sell-out fixtures during the season.
At Future Ticketing, we have gained an insight into just how hard the various clubs have been working to engage fans and build attendances including embracing new technologies such as digital ticketing and social media to modernise their offering to supporters.
On average, attendances at League of Ireland matches powered by Future Ticketing’s digital platform grew by 13% last season. We are currently working with with the top seven League of Ireland Clubs and ten in total with Galway United the latest recruit going live this week.
Given the dedication and loyalty of so many people across the country, from grassroots up to the domestic league level, it is heart-breaking to see the FAI in such dire straits. Yet we must not lose sight of the 180,000 active players in the country or the 500,000 attending domestic fixtures annually.
Whatever the outcome for Football at association level over the coming months, there is at least the comfort in knowing that there is a strong core support base and a growing interest among the general public in the League of Ireland. Having suffered more than most under the old FAI regime, the League of Ireland should not become collateral damage for events not of its own making.