Somebody has to shout stop as English Premier League stranglehold in Ireland strengthens
It might be worth it for League of Ireland clubs to hand out fliers outside events like the Dublin Decider encouraging barstool fans to take a chance on their own domestic league
The Irish sports merchandising market is worth €388 million a year according to an Indecon report published five years ago. Tens of millions of that is spent buying Premier League and Celtic merchandise.
Factor in too the DVDs, books, magazines, sticker albums and general tat, along with the millions spent in dingy pubs watching the likes of Stoke and Sunderland on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
The bill for the Irish infatuation with British football teams must surely be north of €300 million. That is the type of money that would sustain a domestic league capable of producing several clubs which could qualify for the Champions League group stages with plenty of spare change to ensure every community has decent football facilities.
It is a shocking waste of money and to what end? The Premier League, which begins this weekend, is morally bankrupt. Club after club, which claims the allegiance of Irish football fans, have sold up to foreign owners. The Premier League has become a playground for plutocrats, the neo-liberal league as it has been described, where all that matters is money.
Contrast that with the four clubs which qualified for the Champions League semi-finals this year. Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona are all owned in part or in total by their fans.
The support for English Premier League teams is part of the cultural cringe which we have done so much, otherwise, to shed.
It is a manifestation of the colonised mind to believe your own culture is inferior. Why else do so many Irish football fans despise their own domestic league?
The response of League of Ireland fans has been understandably to pour scorn on the barstoolers, but shaming fans into attending League of Ireland matches has not worked as a tactic and will not work.
Fans of the domestic league need to stop acting like a persecuted minority in their own country. Instead, they need to cajole, encourage and proselytise.
It is possible to support a League of Ireland and a Premier League side. Many fans do already, but not enough of them judging by the paltry attendances at League of Ireland matches.
It might be worth it for League of Ireland clubs to hand out fliers outside events like the Dublin Decider encouraging barstool fans to take a chance on their own domestic league or even to hand out free tickets on a one-off basis.
Those who had hoped that the League of Ireland would up its marketing game now that it has come under the aegies of the FAI have been sorely disappointed, and the clubs themselves have been pathetic at marketing their own product.
The first thing the FAI should do is admit that the biggest problem facing the domestic game is the stranglehold on the imagination and pockets of Irish football fans exercised by the English Premier League. Somebody has to shout stop.
It will be a long-term project and it will take a generation to change the mindsets of Irish fans who think their behaviour is normal, but a start has to be made.
If the cringeworthy spectacle at the Aviva Stadium last weekend does not give true Irish football fans pause for thought, nothing will.