The Graham Cummins column: League of Ireland clubs will find it hard to pick themselves up again after Coronavirus

The Graham Cummins column: League of Ireland clubs will find it hard to pick themselves up again after Coronavirus
Dundalk's Pat Hoban with Graham Cummins of Cork City during a clash between the sides in 2019. When will the League of Ireland return? Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

DO I really expect the League of Ireland to resume at the end of the month?

Absolutely not.

When do I expect to be back out on a Friday night playing matches?

Your guess is as good as mine and these are very worrying times for League of Ireland football.

Clubs struggle to survive with having regular games in the season, so how are they meant to continue to operate if their main source of income is gone and they have very little idea of when it will return?

I see clubs are taking the initiative of selling tickets for the postponed games that will be valid for when the fixture is played out later this year.

It is a great idea by clubs but how long will supporters continue to fork out money when there is no real guarantee that the fixture will ever be played?

The coronavirus hasn’t just impacted the sports industry, it’s affecting every job sector.

Industries are closing down and more people are finding themselves unemployed because of it.

These could be the same people that support League of Ireland clubs and are helping the club survive by paying in advanced but if they have to live on a reduced budget they aren’t going to continue to spend their limited income by giving money to the club they love.

As much as supporters love their club and want to do everything to try and keep their club afloat, they will put the needs of their families first.

Of course, in the past, when clubs got into financial difficulties, it has been of their own makings.

Clubs have overspent on trying to achieve success and there is little sympathy for clubs trying to buy success and getting into financial difficulties, when their gamble hasn’t paid off.

This is a completely different scenario.

Clubs could not have foreseen what has happened.

If clubs were guaranteed that the league would be able to continue from March 29 then they could cope but there is no certainty in this situation and things do look very bleak at this moment.

Players are also living in the unknown and are fearful for their livelihood.

The coronavirus has been a topic of discussion in the Waterford dressing room for a number of weeks but none of us expected it to reach this level.

Yes, we had seen the cases of the virus increase but never thought that it would truly affect us.

I think most of the country felt like this. I spoke to our coach, John Cotter, a few weeks back about the possibility of the closure of the league.

He reminded me about the time the league had to be suspended due to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease and that the same might happen because of the coronavirus. I feared that history might repeat itself but had little chance of doing so.

I think the big surprise for players has been how quickly everything has escalated.

We trained last Thursday in preparation for our game against Shelbourne, still believing that the game would go ahead and it would still be weeks before the league was to be suspended.

I assumed the league would have to give the clubs some notice to get prepared for such a difficult time.

It was only after training and we were about to leave the training ground and we saw the Derry City versus Sligo Rovers game was cancelled that we realised that our game could be in doubt and that there was going to be a lot of uncertainty in our futures.

Players have been assured by associations that full time clubs will continue to pay their players with the help of the association as it looks for founding from governing bodies.

As a full-time professional, this doesn’t really comfort me because I am preparing for the stage when clubs do stop paying their players because the club has simply no funds to pay player’s salaries.

At the moment, we haven’t been told any different about our wages continuing as normal.

But the longer the league remains suspended, the more I expect that this will change.

Drogheda United couldn’t even manage to last one week before deciding to suspend payment to players and staff and I would imagine that other clubs will soon join the Louth club’s decision.

It’s never easy losing any sort of income but being in a part-time club it will be easier for the Drogheda players to adjust because they aren’t solely relying on their football income.

It’s different for players like myself and other full-time footballers who depend on their income from football. Even then, some full-time players will find it easier to cope in these difficult times than others.

Younger players who live at home with their parents don’t have that worry about keeping up with mortgage payments or paying gas and electricity bills.

For older players like myself, it is a real worry about when or if the league will continue.

Graham Cummins of Shamrock Rovers celebrates after scoring last season. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Graham Cummins of Shamrock Rovers celebrates after scoring last season. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

There is no guarantee that the league will resume this season and I do see it as a real possibility that the league season could end up being written-off.

I know that different organisations are doing their best by working together to come up with a plan as to how to continue the season but if the virus continues to grow the inevitability will be the cancellation of the season.

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