Prize-money for the upcoming League of Ireland season will remain unchanged at €600,000, a pot Mark Scanlon admits is well behind its European peers.
The league director, while talking up the increased interest reflected by a spike of 29% in attendances, admitted the FAI is not positioned to beef up their pitiful funds.
Despite the FAI finances being stabilised since their crisis in 2019, they remain €65m in debt and the senior team has failed to attract a main sponsor.
At least in 2021, they halted a trend of cuts amounting to 80% from their peak of €1m-plus in 2009.
The yearly serrating correlated with the FAI’s botched Premium ticket scheme applying pressure to their cash-flow and skyrocketing their liabilities.
Still, the present bounty of €125,000 for the Premier Division champions and €36,200 for the First Division winners is miniscule within an international context.
The team that finishes third in the top division grosses more than double from Uefa by qualifying for Europe compared to the figure on offer for claiming the title.
Just €100,000 was available in the FAI Cup basket, payable proportionately from the semi-final on.
The 2023 equivalent will depend on who the FAI lands as marquee sponsor for the Blue Riband.
“I think the prize fund isn’t where we wanted to be,” confessed Scanlon, speaking at FAI headquarters in Abbotstown yesterday, ahead of the new season starting on February 17.
“The gap between the prize money in our league and a lot of small leagues, as well as the money received in European competition, is quite big.
“Increasing it by 30% in the last three seasons is a move in the right direction but we’re ambitious and want it to be higher, to see more revenue generated for the clubs.
“We’d love to see it increase but the key for us is the competitive balance.”
On the plus side, clubs are no longer compelled to fork out for what was considered an obscene amount of €17,000 to the FAI for affiliation and referees’ fees.
More broadly, they will aim to maximise the feelgood factor around the league through sponsorship.
SSE Airtricity were enticed to reverse their decision of 2021 to end their partnership; committing to a two-year extension that added the women’s Premier Division to the portfolio.
“Yes,” Scanlon said about negotiations being underway on the incumbent sponsor sticking around beyond November when their latest deal expires.
“There’s been positive conversations and they will continue.”
On an operational level, players will no longer have to wait for their full suspension to kick in upon reaching the five and ten yellow card thresholds or additional matches from a red card.
One beauty of the new contentious player registration system, FAI Connect, is its ability to refuse entry on a teamsheet of any ineligible players, thereby avoiding protests and reversals of outcomes.
Also being introduced this year is a mechanism to cite players for on-field indiscretions missed by the officials. Video evidence from TV or official club channels, not footage recorded by Joe Public, is admissible for cases.
Clubs can appeal red cards by midday following the match and a decision will be made within 24 hours.
One example of this acting as a remedy last year, were it in place then, was Ruairi Keating’s dismissal for Cork City in the FAI Cup at Derry City, a clear and obvious error by the referee.
Finally, the aspiration contained within last year’s FAI strategy of a third tier continues to get pushed out. The target of 2023 for establishing a reserve division, complemented by university and intermediate clubs, was always unrealistic but it even seems doubtful for 2024.
“The third tier in the men's league depends on the consultation process this year,” explained Scanlon, confirming the women’s second division is scheduled for 2025.
“It was a bit delayed last year mainly due to financial reasons in terms of what we could introduce.”