By Aaron Cawley (@TheMoanyOne)
On Saturday the 5th of August an unusual spectacle is going to take place in Dublin. English giants Liverpool will take on Spanish club Athletic Bilbao in a pre season friendly. While these types of friendlies are starting to become common place worldwide the fact that this match is being played in the ‘home’ of Irish football and no League of Ireland club is involved makes it an unusual spectacle.
For John Delaney and the FAI, getting a friendly of this magnitude could be seen as a coup. Liverpool fans from across Ireland will flock to the Aviva stadium to watch their heroes in action after splashing €70+ on match tickets to see the game. The same can be said regarding Spanish fans of Bilbao who live in Ireland.
The fact that Irish Liverpool fans are flocking to the Aviva to watch a pre season friendly over heading to their local League of Ireland ground to watch their local team play is a kick in the balls for everyone associated with the league.
I am a Liverpool fan and I can be found on @kopleft on twitter regularly writing articles about Liverpool but I am also a Sligo Rovers and League of Ireland fan and this match is without a doubt going to impact on the attendance of the matches from the league that are on that night.
Fans from Sligo Rovers, St Patricks Athletic, Cobh and Longford will no doubt attend this game in favour of watching their local team in action will be a concern for the above mentioned clubs. The revenue that a match day at home brings in can be the difference between players getting paid one week and not the next.
John Delaney and the FAI have shown no consideration for clubs mentioned above whom maybe struggling financially and need the gate money and by having the match on a Saturday night they have basically given those teams the two fingers.
While it looks like I have a problem with the game being played over here I don’t. My problem is with the fans who have no problem spending big money to attend games like this but who will not spend €10-€15 to attend a League of Ireland match and support their own national league.
The FAI should have picked a date that there is no League of Ireland match on to play the game. Maybe play the game on the Sunday afternoon. At most they should have contacted the clubs affected by this fixture and given them the option of changing the date of their game to maximise the amount of fans who will attend the matches.
I speak to people about not attending League of Ireland matches on a regular basis and I always get the same answer from them as to why they do not attend matches the league is shit. It needs investing in and there are no family incentives for parents to bring children to games.
All these excuses for me are cop outs. The facilities and standard in the league will not improve unless new fans attend games. Clubs are more than happy to provide an area in grounds for families if that was required.
From attending League of Ireland matches over the last few years’ clubs are more than happy to facilitate any requests from fans. This is something that does not happen as frequently across the water.
The failings of the FAI are again being shown up for everyone to see. The timing of this match has once again played in to the ‘problem child league’ that keeps being mentioned within Abbottstown when the League of Ireland is being talked about. The fact that some fans who would normally be at the Showgrounds watching Sligo Rovers play on the 5th of August will instead be in the Aviva watching Liverpool feeds in to the ‘problem child league’ image.
I feel that fans have unknowingly fallen in to a trap set by the FAI by selling out this game on the same night matches are occurring in the league. I know for some going to the Aviva to see Liverpool is a once in a lifetime experience but I hope in the future some of these fans who attend the Aviva will start to attend League of Ireland matches in the future and help dispel the notion that the league is problematic.