PFAI reveal player earnings remain low but clubs’ finances stabilise
General secretary says none of league’s clubs currently owe any of the union’s members money
Professional Footballers’ Association of Ireland general secretary Stephen McGuinness says the number of early signings in the close season reflects the greater stability. Photograph: Inpho
Average earnings remain low in the Airtricity League but significant progress is being made on the financial front, according to Professional Footballers’ Association of Ireland general secretary Stephen McGuinness. He says the number of early signings in the close season reflects the greater stability of clubs who, like their sponsors, have weathered the economic crash and adjusted to their dramatically reduced circumstances.
McGuinness estimates that the best paid player in the league now receives about €1,000 per week on a 40-week contract while younger players are routinely paid a quarter of that.
The average, he reckons, is roughly €500 per week, or €20,000 a season, with players then having to scramble about for outside work to make ends meet at this time of year with many ending up in shops or other seasonal jobs for the Christmas.
The figures are up slightly on recent seasons but the more important change, he says, is the ability of clubs to deliver on whatever it is they promise.
Although there were some problems over the course of last season, McGuinness says that none of the league’s clubs currently owe any of the union’s members any money.
“That’s the first time in my seven years in this job that I’ve been able to say that at this time of the year,” he says.
Some players are still owed money by the old Galway United but with the new Galway FC, managed by Tommy Dunne, officially launched last night, those debts have effectively been written off.
McGuinness puts the general improvement down to better management and increasingly stable revenues with clubs becoming more realistic about what they are likely to generate at the turnstiles and sponsors now in a stronger position themselves to honour what they commit to.
“We’d all love to have a full-time league again,” he says, “but I think players are relieved that they can at least expect to be paid what they are promised which is a big improvement on where we were in this league a few years ago.”
The former St Patrick’s Athletic and Dundalk defender believes the decline in pay from the height of the boom when, he says, “we had players on €150,000 a year . . . a few on more than that”, has driven many older players away from the game. “Players have to ask themselves whether the money is enough to make the commitment required to play in the league worthwhile and for the younger lads it is but an awful lot of lads with families can’t afford to play anymore, they’re tending to concentrate on their day jobs and looking to the longer term.”
McGuinness was speaking at the launch of this year’s squad training for the annual Fifpro tournament for unemployed players in Oslo which takes place this year on January 9th.
Last year, the likes of Mark Rossiter, Stephen Maher and Craig Walsh featured in the event before returning to have good campaigns in the league here and this time around Seán Russell, Stephen Rice and Gareth Brady, the younger brother of Hull City’s Robbie, are amongst the players to sign up early.
McGuinness, meanwhile, says he was sickened by the suggestion last week that the game’s latest match fixing allegations might have an Irish dimension. “I was shocked . . . sick,” he says. “Some guy in England spouts out he had done something in relation to matches in Ireland and straight away we’re getting tarnished. In my opinion our game’s too tight for something like that to happen.
“You can’t stop an individual doing something but to suggest a match here has been rigged is ridiculous. If there was any evidence we’d see it. Uefa and Interpol monitor this stuff so closely you see the signs of it.”