Republic of Ireland international Áine O’Gorman says she believes that the issue of “pay to play” around the Women’s National League has been addressed with players no longer being required to pay subs or bring in sponsorship by clubs around the country.
“I don’t think it’s been an issue this year,” she said as she launched the Aviva-sponsored FAI Soccer Sisters programme, which will again be run online over the Easter period due to the coronavirus situation. “I don’t think anyone at any club has been asked to pay. Hopefully that won’t be reversed next year. It’s a good step in the right direction and hopefully we can push on from there.”
The issue has prompted considerable controversy in the past as players were forced to contribute towards the cost of running their team. But increased funding from Government that was initially related to the coronavirus situation has helped clubs to address the situation and new FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill suggested a few weeks back that he felt the practice had been consigned to history.
With Peamount United about to kick off their pursuit of a third straight title away to Wexford this weekend, the 31-year-old O’Gorman is conscious that they are the team any aspiring contender has to target but she believes that the main concern is to meet the standards a hugely experienced group of players have set for themselves over the past few seasons.
“You always want to beat the champions and get a scalp against them. So we know everyone is going to be up for it when they play Peamount. It’s up to us to be ready and be prepared,” she said.
“We need to keep our standards high and deliver in those games as well. I think even the teams that finished in the bottom four last season are set up better tactically now and it’s more difficult to break them down. We know we have to be on top of our game week in, week out if we want to win again.”
O’Gorman was speaking a matter of hours after the English FA announced a new broadcast deal with the BBC and Sky for the league there, one that will generate around €10 million a year, still modest by the incredible standards of the Premier League but a huge advance on a contract that previously involved the TV companies just covering their costs of their coverage.
“It’s amazing, I go back to the women’s World Cup that was shown on RTÉ, the game got exposure and people became fans. The women’s international team has grown year on year, we’re getting more crowds into Tallaght and the games are on RTÉ as well.
“We’re moving in the right direction but as the game in England grows and throughout the world, we’ve just got to make sure we’re not left behind. We’ve got to continue to grow and develop and be the best league we can be here. I think it’s about growing the game and building a fan base and getting people’s interest so yeah, we would like to see more games on RTÉ.”
Players can register for the Soccer Sisters virtual skills hub at https://www.aviva.ie/sponsorship/fai/soccersisters/