DERRY CITY is to seek compensation from the FAI for the dramatic loss in gate receipts caused by televised games which the club believe are ‘crucifying’ its finances.
SIMON COLLINS reports
The club’s Vice Chairman, Sean Barrett insists that the presence of the RTE cameras for Friday night’s home clash against league leaders, Sligo Rovers dramatically reduced the attendance at the Brandywell which is having severe financial implications for the club.
In fact Friday’s attendance, which is believed to be well below 1,000 with just 448 paying customers, was incredibly the lowest it has been in the Premier Division since the club entered the League of Ireland in 1985.
Sligo Rovers, who normally bring in the region of 600 travelling supporters to Brandywell, brought just 125 on Friday night despite the Bit O’Red chasing their first League of Ireland title since 1977.
At the beginning of the 2012 season, Premier Division clubs waived any TV rights when signing the ‘participation agreement’ but Mr. Barrett revealed last night that the club will seek compensation such is the financial loss experienced when the RTE cameras roll into town.
Premier Division clubs have reported as much as a 60 per cent loss in ticket sales when games are televised ‘live’ which, according to the ‘Candy Stripes’ Vice Chairman, is simply unsustainable.
“The impact it has on attendances is dramatic,” said Mr Barrett. “Especially Friday night’s game, it was an absolute killer for us. On average we would have between 500 and 600 Sligo fans coming and we had 125 on Friday night!
“From a revenue point of view it’s disastrous,” he added. “Even some of our season ticket holders don’t come to the games if they’re on the television. That’s people that have already paid their entrance money.
“The Derry City v Sligo matches are normally our biggest for attendances. In fact, from when we came back into the League of Ireland, our biggest gates are against Sligo Rovers and our smallest gate in the Premier Division since we’ve been in the League of Ireland was on Friday night.
“It’s scary how big of an impact the presence of the RTE cameras have on attendances. Obviously the fact we’re not playing too well has an impact and maybe because it was the July weekend and everyone was away for the weekend had too.
“But it’s been proved that gates receipts are down in the region of 60 per cent with TV games. It’s crucifying the crowds.”
Friday night’s game was the second Derry City fixture shown ‘live’ on RTE this season and with Shamrock Rovers having been televised in excess of six times already, the clubs have called for an EGM to address the situation.
“Shamrock Rovers are getting absolutely hammered because they’ve seven or eight games televised,” explained Mr Barrett. “There’s no set figure on how many games will be televised. We don’t get any funding whatsoever for ‘live’ games. There’s no TV rights whatsoever, they’ve ended all that.
“They included that in the participation agreement at the start of the season that we all signed up to or else we weren’t allowed into the league and it was part of the stipulations that we had to build a gantry for TV.
“We’ve been lucky in that we’ve only had two ‘live’ games so far but it dramatically effects the crowd, there’s no doubt about that. It’s incredible.
“We have no say because we’ve signed up to it at the start of the season but will we sign up to it next year? I’m not so sure. We must get some sort of compensation for it because we simply can’t afford to be losing the amount of money that we’re losing because of it.
“We’ll be asking for compensation. The clubs have asked for an EGM for several reasons but that’s the main issue - the TV. It’s only affecting three or four clubs, that’s the problem. They’re not going to Shelbourne or Bohs, they’re just coming to Sligo, Derry, St Pat’s and Shamrock Rovers are getting hammered by it.”
Obviously the knock-on effect of the paltry gate receipts is the impact on Derry boss, Declan Devine’s transfer budget and with the club currently amid a well documented injury crisis, the poor attendances are greatly damaging any chances of strengthening the squad.
“We have to re-adjust our budget month by month and even last month we’re dramatically down and it’s scary.
“It’s affecting Declan’s budget. Both Declan and Paul wil be coming to the Board meeting and asking to strengthen the squad and I’m going to be giving them a report of where we stand based on what money we have in and he’s going to be disappointed. That’s the reality of it.
“We’ll be seeking compensation., we might not get it but it’s disastrous. It’s crucifying the league.”
Incredibly, six of Friday night’s squad were involved in last night’s Foyle Cup Under-19 competition which highlights the lack of depth available for Devine, yet he understands the detrimental affect the poor attendances are having on the club’s funds.
“As much as I welcome the involvement of RTE in the league, it does help the league but attendances are definitely down,” said Devine.
“We were down at least 400 Sligo supporters. The last time Sligo were here and it wasn’t televised they brought over 400 supporters. That’s big income to the club that we’re missing out in.
“The atmosphere was very good having saying that. I thought the support was very pleasing and they got behind the team. I think they recognised the players are trying their best”