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Clubs need help sooner rather than later to survive, says Sligo Rovers treasurer

Jake O'Donnell
Jake O'Donnell

21:04 14 Mar 2020

It can be difficult to survive a year of trading for League of Ireland clubs at the best of times. 
For every club that has tasted silverware, a similar number have tread close to insolvency.
The arrival of coronavirus, the subsequent uncertainty and postponed matches are having an effect on sport at all levels, but it comes as no shock that League of Ireland clubs will be especially hit.
Many clubs in the league are reliant on gate-receipts, fundraising, and goodwill, all of which will suffer in the current climate.
While sport is by no means the most important thing on people's minds right now, high-level discussions have taken place within Irish football on how to give clubs the best chance of survival as costs continue and revenue dries up.
Joining OTB Football Saturday to explain the reality for League of Ireland clubs, David Rowe, treasurer of Sligo Rovers, explained the club "could not have survived" if the league continued behind doors.

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"The three choices that were laid out were behind closed doors, attendances restricted to 500 or a shutdown and we are happy – well not happy but in relevant terms – that the shutdown was the only route, certainly for us."
While the shutdown was welcomed compared to sacrificing up to €40,000 in gate-receipts and playing behind closed doors, Rowe said it is not a situation that the club can continue for a long period of time either.
"We all know League of Ireland clubs are delicately balanced. We have every single penny budgeted forward in terms of cash flow and, as I said, Sligo is a massive community club; we raised half a million last year in voluntary fundraising and what an incredible total for the town and county and diaspora base.

sligo 14 July 2019; Sligo Rovers Treasurer David Rowe, right, speaking at a press conference during Day 2 of the National League Strategic Planning weekend at FAI Headquarters in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
"We know those people are going to be affected and they can't support us to the same level. For us there are two solutions: one, there is some kind of support which seems to be what is being explored at the moment.
"That would have to come very quickly like, within the next two, three or four weeks and the other solution is some kind of temporary pause in terms of the shutdown of costs.
"Certainly, for the five or six Premier Division clubs that are in the same boat as ourselves and then first division clubs. Nobody goes on when their income is 10% [of what it was] with full costs and we can't either.
"No League of Ireland club – other than maybe the top two and the couple of strongly supported benefactor clubs – are in a position to do that."
Rowe added that he was acutely aware of the board's responsibility to safeguard the club's future while continuing to be a good employer and community club: "We've got responsibilities as custodians of the club, we can't just run a large cost base for three or four weeks."
"We would be largely irresponsible, and potentially we would damage what is a very good club, and a very good employer and very good social output for people."
Asked how long the club can continue paying players' wages, Rowe said that unless there was "a golden rescue" every club will reach a point in time "where they simply run out of money".
"We know in Sligo what our number is. We've got a little bit of time for some of those things to be organised but we live in the real world as well where there is going to be a lot of changes for people in society and in employment and you know the football community can't be immune from that.
Rowe added that he couldn't envision the club continuing without serious support or a dramatic reduction in costs. "It couldn't happen. It can't happen," he said.
"We will do everything we can to alleviate the situation but the one thing we can't do is run the club under.
"There are talks at the moment of some kind of golden fund coming into assist, but those talks have been in the air and mooted for the last couple of weeks. I suppose our view is that there is a timeline in which that has to be delivered and it's getting shorter.
"We are concerned for our players, we are concerned for our supporters, our fans, our sponsors. As a board, we have to do the responsible thing whatever that is.
"The easiest solution is if there is some kind of short term support but you know that appears to be somewhat in the distance and it's intangible and uncertain.
"I don't think any of us believe honestly in two-weeks time we are going to be playing League of Ireland matches again. If that's the case we can see it through – of course, we can – but if it goes on past that it's not rocket science; it's not going to add up."

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Coronavirus David Rowe Football Association Of Ireland League Of Ireland Sligo Rovers

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