The State of Irish Club Football

May 22, 2019

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League of Ireland Premier Division

Founded: 1985

Most Championships: Dundalk, 7

Last 5 Winners: Dundalk (18, 16, 15, 14), Cork City (17)

UEFA Ranking: 37th

Highest Ranked Club: Dundalk, 155th

Interview with Charles the co-editor of Back Page Football

As a minnow of European Football, what do Irish fans and teams expect from their European campaigns and what would qualify as a success?

To spin the question round to an answer, success would be qualification. I think most, if not all Irish football fans are realistic when it comes to continental competition, they know the league’s level and the difference in that level compared to other smaller leagues on the continent. Ireland’s league structure is quite small and whilst the teams compete readily with each other and obviously rivalries exist, it is quite ‘insular’, so in essence, being able to compete and test the league’s level against foreign opponents who are rightly considered superior is a success in itself.

How much do the fans and teams look forward to European competition?

Like I said above, absolutely massively. For the players the opportunity to play against better opponents in a continental competition and with the pageantry that comes with that is a huge motivation. And that’s before you consider that its a decent shop window for any player – a couple of stand out performances in front of the TV cameras may be a hue boost for your career. For the clubs themselves there’s the obvious financial bonuses that can come from a decent campaign – both prize money and the increase in gate receipts.

For the fans, who wouldn’t want to see their local team playing in a competition usually reserved for European ‘giants’?

Is funding ever a problem for Irish sides in European competition in regards getting to and from away games?

As far as I’m aware things have improved for clubs in terms of assistance provided to clubs, many of whom wouldn’t have had much experience in organizing travel for the playing squad and staff internationally. At the end of the day, any costs involved in taking part in a successful campaign are more than offset by the prize money on offer.

Is a Champions League / Europa League game involving an Irish side watched by most of the nation?

I think its very much dependent on the the opponent. More often than not an early round Champions League qualifier would draw a modest television audience, but get a few rounds in and the bigger the name of the opponent – perhaps a mid-level Dutch team or a former Eastern European giant – and the bigger the curiosity from the general public. A fixture against a ‘big name’ would also be hyped in the media, which would help boost the TV audience.

How is the EL viewed in general by Irish fans?

The Europa League will always have a huge following in Ireland – Premier League teams such as Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea have huge Irish followings. I think from a domestic perspective, Dundalk’s exploits in the Europa league opened many fans eyes to the potentially club-changing success that could be achieved by having a successful continental campaign.

How do you think Europa League 2 will affect Irish performances in Europe and what has been the reaction to the formation of the competition in Ireland + the other proposed changes to European competition?

Interestingly enough the reaction to the new format has been relatively negative. One of the main arguments being that its more to do with placating the clubs from bigger leagues ring fencing places in the biggest competitions for the biggest teams. Now, this may well be true, but from a personal point of view I can see some potential positives from this. Remember that the same arguments were put forward when the UEFA Nations League was proposed, however there is a potential, as with the latter, that ‘Europa League 2’ actually allows Irish clubs to compete, rather than merely take part in continental competition. More games means more experience and hopefully lead to an improvement in performances.

Do you think UEFA are doing enough to help the minnows of European football and what can they do to further help them?

I don’t have much faith in UEFA to do much right to be honest. I think the organization, much like FIFA, is only interested in making money and that means it is beholden to the Europeans giants. But like I said, a potential offshoot of increasingly tiered competition may be that there is a more competitive structure put in place allows minnows to develop beyond inconvenient whipping boys.

Interview with Charles the co-editor of Back Page Football

Find all your Champions League betting odds here

A Europa League infographic

Author: Tom Mortimer

Tom is the editor at Betting Circle and has been creating online content for over 10 years. Tom mainly writes about sport and gambling, but every now and then also delves into fleshier subjects like politics and psychology. When he was 18 he created and over the last few years he's written on a freelance basis for ESPN, WorldSoccer,, among many others.

Twitter @TMortimerFtbl

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