Bohs in Bother but League Must Take Share of Blame; Gypsies Enter Most Critical Stage in Their History So Far

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), August 22, 2010 | Go to article overview

Bohs in Bother but League Must Take Share of Blame; Gypsies Enter Most Critical Stage in Their History So Far


Byline: Mark Gallagher

NEXT MONTH, as part of the Phibsboro Arts Festival, there is a special evening organised for the Phoenix Bar at Dalymount Park entitled Bohemians at the Heart of Phibsboro. It will chronicle the history of the club from its founding meeting in 1890 to the present day.

The next few weeks, though, are likely to be the most critical in the long and proud history of Bohemians football club. A shortfall in commercial income and cashflow problems mean the club needs [euro]400,000 simply to survive until the end of the season. Doubts expressed, most loudly by PFAI chief Stephen McGuinness, over their ability to pay players' wages in the past week have been allayed somewhat by the impending sale of teenage defender Matt Doherty to Wolverhampton Wanderers and receipt of the next instalment of Gary Deegan's [euro]150,000 transfer fee from Coventry City.

In that rarest of League of Ireland seasons, where there has been no issue with unpaid wages (Galway United players agreed to a deferral last month), the FAI have to deal with one of the biggest crises since they took control of the league with the most successful club of recent times falling on hard times.

There were warning signs, though, and all too frequently reported on these pages. Only two years ago, Bohemians posted losses of [euro]1.3million. Nevertheless, they went ahead and secured a [euro]4million loan from Zurich Bank, repayments of which now affect their cashflow. One highprofile member (writer and activist Michael Nugent) was so perturbed by the club's spending practices in 2008 that he called for an Emergency General Meeting. But little changed.

Bohs were dogged with rumours that they were skirting around the 65 per cent Salary Cost Protocol last season, something borne out by the fact the FAI imposed a transfer embargo on the club.

Despite walking a financial tightrope, though, the two-time champions bolstered their squad with seven new players this past January. No wonder it will be a constant struggle for the club between now and November. Bohemians are paying for past sins; recent ones at that.

'We robbed Peter to pay Paul and we did that for a while,' one club source acknowledged this week. 'And that is where we are at now and we just have to see where we can go from here.'

The Gypsies elected a new board last year and immediately set about implementing cost-cutting measures. Wages were slashed by as much as 40 per cent in some cases. By that stage, though, things had been allowed to spiral out of control.

Bohemians met on Thursday night to evaluate the club's current position, discussing a number of fundraising ventures and the different methods which will allow it to get back on a stable footing.

Members have been asked to pay for home games, although given less than 1,200 turned up to watch the 2-0 defeat of Bray Wanderers on Tuesday night, it remains to be seen how much can be raised. The club is also running a 'Bring a Friend Initiative'. But again, judging on recent gates, it doesn't appear to have been too great a success.

It doesn't help that the events on the pitch have led to the most pronounced slump of Pat Fenlon's reign at precisely the wrong time. Since their shock Champions League exit at the hands of TNS in Wales, the faith of followers was further shaken by a 3-0 defeat to Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght before the lost 2-0 at home Park to nine-man Galway United. There was some respite with Friday's victory over freefalling Dundalk but it remains to be seen whether it's enough to stop the rot.

For seasoned observers of the league as a whole, it's depressingly familiar. Twenty-three years ago, Shamrock Rovers spent their final season in their fabled Milltown home with average gate floating around the 600 mark.

Fenlon has delivered five trophies in two-and-a-half seasons at Dalymount Park, but it hasn't led to any sort of stampede through the turnstiles. …

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