The League of Ireland often gets overlooked in this country due to a number of factors. The popularity of the Premier League is a major reason as football fans in the country are much more inclined to watch the heavily marketed global brand of the Premier League as opposed to our own national league. The lack of investment from the FAI and the failure of the organisation to promote the league have seen the league take a back seat to the English league. This failure to promote the league has meant that media organisations seek to report on the English league and other European leagues in order to appeal to a wider audience. This lack of media coverage and investment in the league has had a damning impact as the standard of football and attendances are miserably low compared to the leagues on the continent. Media outlets such as the Irish Examiner and the Irish Independent offer the league very little coverage as the two publications combined over the week of Monday 19th February to Sunday 25th February only gave the league twenty-seven pages of coverage while English and European leagues garnered eighty-four pages of coverage from the publications. These figures are startling and make us wonder about the reasoning for the little consideration of the league from the media in Ireland.
Shamrock Rovers press officer Mark Lynch believes that there are currently “varying degrees of coverage across all platforms” for the league. He notes that while there are a number of media organisations that focus on the league such as ExtraTime.ie television coverage of the he feels is quite poor. Lynch relates that RTE only shows “eighteen games a year including the league and cup” while TV3 and TG4 give the league no coverage. The league also garners “very limited Radio coverage” in Lynch’s eyes. Lynch points to the fact that some publications such as the Daily Mail do provide pull-outs for the league in their circulations. However, Lynch also states that publications such as the Irish Independent and the Irish Times provide the least amount of coverage for the league among the country’s national newspapers. Lynch also raised concern for Sunday newspapers coverage of the league saying “they give the league very little coverage as they focus heavily on the results of English leagues”.
Lynch thinks the FAI needs to do more to gain the league notoriety with publications both at home and abroad saying the “FAI support has been modest”. Lynch makes the comparison of the promotion of international matches by the FAI as opposed to the promotion of the League of Ireland. For the recent Ireland match against Georgia Lynch relates that the FAI engaged in a “heavy advertising promotion of the match”. Lynch then remarked that “You won’t see that level of promotion for Rovers against Cork!” Lynch believes that the buck stops with the head of the FAI in regards to promoting the league saying “It is the responsibility of the owner of the league to promote that league”. Lynch relates that the FAI need to address the issue of gaining the league publicity notoriety abroad with more urgency showing the model of the Premier League as an example “Premier League coverage is as big in the Far East as it is in England”. Lynch told of how Rovers as a club have looked to address the problem themselves in order to get the club more notoriety with both fans and media alike. The club has partnerships with 98 FM and the Tallaght Echo among other media outlets in order to get the club noticed. Lynch also tells of how the club heavily use social media platforms to inform fans and media of upcoming matches and deals in the club shop. The club also have regular press releases sent out to all national and local media outlets in the country which provide information on upcoming matches.
Shamrock Rovers fan Tim Lawler is concerned with the little attention the media in Ireland is giving the League of Ireland believing that the popularity of the Premier League is a major part of the problem. Tim thinks Irish newspapers completely disregard the league in favour of providing content for readers on the Premier League saying “ If you look at papers such as the Daily Mirror they only give the league one maybe two pages of coverage while they look to give the English league five or six pages of coverage”. Tim believes that this is done to “appeal to a wider audience but it’s a problem for the League of Ireland as the knock on effect of this means that the league isn’t a priority for football fans which in turn leads to less players wanting to come to the league and has an impact on the standard of football currently in the league at the moment”. An area of serious concern for Tim is the failure of the FAI to promote the league both at home and abroad. Tim sees the FAI as “the biggest part of the problem” believing they have sold the league short saying “they do very little to gain the league notoriety with the media both home and abroad and they also give the league little investment which has stunted the leagues growth”.
Tim also took a shot at the organisations figure-head John Delaney saying “Why does he get 360,000 a year when the league winners only get just over 100,000? That right there just shows you where the problems in Irish football and coverage of Irish football lay at the moment. In Tim’s eyes the FAI need to “get their act together and seek better investment opportunities and better partnerships with media outlets in order to get the league better notoriety both at home and abroad”. The main problem for Tim is that if the FAI is not restructured then the league will never get the attention from the media it needs to grow saying “The FAI needs a major overhaul if football and football coverage in the country is to progress beyond its current standing”.
Joe.ie journalist Rudi Kinsella belives that media coverage of the League of Ireland is low due to a lack of interest from both media outlets and fans. Rudi sees the FAI’s support of the league being inadequate believing that if the organisation showed the league better attention football in the country would vastly improve saying “They don’t offer nearly enough support. If they did, they’d reap the benefits in the national team as well”. In Rudi’s eyes in order for both media coverage of the league and general interest in the league to grow social media will have to play a huge role saying “I think social media would have a large part to play in it. Making it so that fans can see highlights after the game would add a lot to the experience, helping fans understand who plays where etc. The FAI simply must put more money in to the league”.
As you can see there are a plethora of reasons for the lack of coverage and promotion of the League of Ireland by the media in the country. The reasoning behind the lack of coverage mainly lies on the FAI’s door as they have poorly promoted the league both home and abroad which has meant that development in the league has stalled. Investment by the FAI is also poor which in turn has meant that club’s have been less attractive for foreign investment which could pump money into the league. Of course the popularity of the Premier League will always be a problem for the league but the FAI should look at models such as the Premier League as a blueprint on how to grow the league beyond its current standing. However, at the moment there seems to be no change in the FAI even with the recent calls for John Delaney’s head coupled with calls for the complete overhaul of the organisation. If something doesn’t change soon then the league will be doomed to mediocrity and Irish football will continue to suffer as a result. Thus media coverage of the league will continue down the same trend of giving the league a tiny bit of coverage in order to produce more content for the Premier League in an effort to appeal to a wider audience.