Today we look at the problems leagues and clubs alike are facing in their bid to keep Junior Football a priority for their players and keeping all clubs at a competitive level in Ireland.
In recent seasons we have seen a sharp fall in numbers regarding player and club affiliations across the country and we have spoken to leagues and clubs regarding this problem and what can be done to fight it.
Although we are sure we have missed out on problems we will touch on the following 16 that make life near unbearable for some areas and are in no particular order as to their importance.
1. Unsociable working hours
2. Proper structuring of second and third teams
3. Attitudes of Players, Clubs and Leagues
4. Money: Sponsorship, Paying of players, Affiliation, Prize money
5. Volunteers or Lack their of
10. Rules on withdrawals from leagues
11. Coaching standards
12. Oscar Traynor Demise
13. Delegate meetings
15. Media coverage
1. Unsociable Working Hours
Clubs really took a hit on players when the recession kicked in and players jobs began to change. Prior to this a lot of players would have had the ability to change work hours etc but with many company’s forced to let go so many people this flexibility has now gone and players now cannot make training or games. This is a problem that in reality cannot be fixed and many top players are caught up in it.
2. Proper Structuring Of 2nd & 3rd Teams
Some leagues feel that having two teams from one club in the same Division sends out the wrong message. With the likes of Evergreen FC in Kilkenny for example clubs feel that many more players will sign for them as their facilities and having thirty two players minimum playing top Division football every week makes it harder for the smaller clubs to compete. It is widely regarded that 2nd and 3rd teams be used as a feeder club to the 1st team.
Another problem here is when players refuse to play at a top level and only want to play for the lower teams within a club. This can happen for many reasons most importantly the work related as players cannot train etc as said above. This however effects a club in a bad way and often drives a wedge between teams at one club.
The solutions here would obviously for leagues to not allow two teams from one club in the same Division however those clubs will then see a loss of players also as a result of this.
This has become a major stumbling block within leagues and does not look like changing anytime soon. It starts at the top levels of most leagues and clubs and goes right down to the players. Some league boards will not converse with clubs whilst the clubs will not offer the same and so on. This indeed drives a wedge between everyone and utility is one that’s hard to fix. The one solution would be for fresh faces to volunteer for league positions from as many clubs as possible in an effort to show people that in football, without work,effort, commitment and conversation amongst others, you don’t have a right to anything, you must earn it.
Money had always been of importance in junior football but never as important as now for various reasons.
Players are now being continuously paid by the bigger clubs and this is undoubtedly having a go huge effect on smaller clubs that cannot offer the same. Players are easily drawn into this since the recession and they cannot be blamed for taking on the extra income. Payments are normally hidden behind travel expenses and a lot of smaller clubs have regarded this as a main reason why they can’t stay competitive.
Sponsorship is now hard come by also as many companies that would have normally sponsored leagues and clubs have either closed their doors or are not in the same financial position to offer the money they used to. This on turn with a laziness from some clubs to go and find new sponsors and in turn sees some clubs drive club registration to the point where they are unaffordable for some. This is a common problem within the playing community and some say they cannot see where the money is going.
Affiliation prices have stayed the same in recent years throughout the country but clubs say that they are finding it go hard to come up with the money and they have no way of getting the money back as most leagues don’t offer prize money for being successful. One club in particular mentioned that even if they were given three match balls when affiliation was payed then at least it would be something. Leagues like the AUL offer generous prize money’s upon winning and maybe it should be looked at by leagues that don’t.
5. Volunteers or Lack Their Of
This is an age old problem in all amateur sports around the country and one that irks me especially. Too often players expect a fine pitch to play on, fantastic facilities etc but are not willing to lift a finger to make this happen or maintain what they have. Too often the few volunteers that clubs have are being criticised for their efforts and if this is not changed sometime soon clubs will fold by their dozens and as I’ve said before this is the reason my own club folded a year ago. Players must help out or risk having to play somewhere they don’t want to or end up not playing at all.
the GAA is a profound problem around rural Ireland especially as soccer always struggles to compete against their GAA counterparts. In the most part League boards and the GAA have absolutely no dialogue and continue to battle rather than discuss a positive outcome.
Clubs feel that transfers are too easily sought after and feel that some players leave on a whim after a small argument even. Their are other reasons like bigger clubs seeing a player in good form and some offering money to transfer etc. They feel that this in turn leads to huge unrest within a club, something of which can take clubs seasons to recover. It is hard to see what can be done here as because it’s amatuer their is little to offer in the side of blocking transfers.
This is a two way problem around the country and one that should be easily fixed if done right by most clubs. Some club committees are happy with a lack of facilities and in turn lose players because of it whilst other clubs need volunteers and it’s players, parents etc refuse to get on board and again they lose players because if it. The sky is the absolute limit for clubs who get a good relationship between everyone and it would be soon seen that it is very possible to improve facilities at a national level.
9. Youths Football
Youths football is probably the hardest of age groups to manage as the variations to why players are lost are huge. Leaving cert studies, college, attitudes, socialising etc always play a big part and for the most after u/16 lever the coaching takes a dip as the emerging talent programmes end and it’s left onto the clubs as a whole to continue their improvements. Coaching is key to keeping whatever interested u/18s are left and clubs with youths teams should have proper coaching levels compulsory.
Withdrawals from leagues by clubs through the season is a major problem and can be the fault of any reasons above or to follow. Many within the football community feel that the punishments for such should be met with more severity with some saying that at least a two year ban should be imposed. Again the solutions are scarce as every withdrawal should be examined but some clubs who continuously withdrawing should look into an amalgamation with a neighbouring club in an effort to curb this.
11. Coaching Standards
Coaching standards in junior football can sometimes be farcical. For my own experience I managed a team for three seasons with absolutely no coaching courses done and I will freely admit that the training was not up to the standard that it should have been. Each league should impose compulsory coaching to all club managers at the start of the season, kick start one to start off with and if you want to coach for a second year the level should improve. This is too often left to the schoolkids setup and should now be passed onto the Junior level also.
12. Oscar Traynor Demise
Many leagues have recently withdrawn from the Oscar Traynor Cup and it is felt by most that this tournament needs to be revamped to regain it’s importance. It should be a big thing for a player to be called up to the league side but very often clubs stop players from playing and leagues then cannot compete with others in the tournament. Clubs should fully support this if their League has entered and maybe punishments should be brought in if they don’t. It is probably the biggest opportunity for players to get a Junior International call up.
13. Delegate Meetings
Throughout the country clubs blame their League boards for not making improvements but in some cases this is down to the clubs themselves. A lack of attendance to delegate meetings and AGM’s is a huge problem but some clubs refuse to speak up at these meetings also. If a motion is put forward at an AGM it must be voted on but if it’s not put forward it only leads to another year of complaints with little or no foundations. The best way however to implement change is to volunteer for those boards and battle against these people you feel that refuse change.
This is the one recurring problem throughout all the leagues. Clubs want a fixture list at the start of the season and expect it to be adhered to, something of which most league and fixture secretaries will tell you is impossible. Fixtures can and should be set out at the start of the season with all Cup competitions taken into consideration however there are many variables eg postponements. Maybe weekends should be set aside to combat this and the use of facilities eg floodlights should be used to catch up. I myself feel that their should be no top Division fixtures during FAI Junior Cup, Munster and Leinster Junior Cup weekends and these weekend can then be used as catch up fixtures for those that fall behind, I’m alot of cases for their success in these trophies.
Refereeing in most leagues has improved but at times the best of referees are not utilised or graded properly. Referees should be appointed to games that suit their standard and it should be a combination of the league and the society in question to ensure that they are properly assigned.
16. Media Coverage
Throughout the country their is a dark cloud over which media should cover leagues. In my opinion all media should be engaged at utilised and indeed these media outlets should try their best to work together in an effort to improve this coverage, coverage that is deserved of the fine football on show week in week out. All too often are media outlets blocked for reasons unknown and the bickering between some outlets can sometimes become embarrassing. Their is plenty to write for everyone and each should have the good of the game at heart.
These are just some of the problems that arise from Junior level and most to be fair can be met head on and be dealt with. The standard of Junior Football in this country is very high but work needs to be done now to ensure its survival for generations to come and everyone MUST work together to achieve this.