This has been a difficult year financially in Irish football, with Premier Division sides Cobh Ramblers FC, Galway United FC and Finn Harps FC asking their players to take pay cuts. Nor have the most successful teams been unaffected. The problems of former champions are well documented: Shelbourne FC were demoted from the top flight for financial irregularities immediately after winning the 2006 title, their third in four seasons; 2005 winners Cork City FC made their woes public earlier this term when they went before the courts and then into examinership, a form of receivership, to deal with debts.
Drogheda United FC, the 2007 table-toppers, have just enjoyed the most glittering period in their history, winning four trophies in the last three campaigns and almost knocking FC Dynamo Kyiv out of the UEFA Champions League. Yet even they have said they have serious money worries and cannot guarantee players' contracts for next season. Drogheda suffered a major blow when they were denied planning permission to build a 10,000 all-seater stadium, and that has caused the current crisis.
"The club has been successful on the field but we needed the new stadium to happen," United manager Paul Doolin said. "With the stadium plan gone, it's very hard for the people who were putting their money into the club. Those people were broke in their pocket but they were probably broke mentally as well with all that's happened."
The Drogheda players were informed of the situation by the board 24 hours before the home game with Bohemians on 10 October, and they admit they fear for their futures. "It was a hard week for us, but what choice do we have as players?" said defender Graham Gartland. "What's happening in the league of Ireland is happening all over the country – across Ireland people are losing their jobs or seeing their hours cut back, but they still get up in the morning and get on with it, so we have to do the same.
"Three years ago Shelbourne and Longford Town, my team, won the league and the FAI Cup – the two most successful clubs in the country. But now the two clubs are in the first division," Gartland added. "Cork won the league and the cup but they are bankrupt now. Here at Drogheda we won the league, the FAI Cup and the Setanta Cup in a couple of years and now we are bankrupt as well."
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