Sligo Rovers have been left to count the cost of Dundalk’s successful European progression.
As the league-leaders get set for another financial windfall, the decision to postpone Sunday’s game between the Lilywhites and Rovers at the Showgrounds to aid Dundalk’s European campaign will have financial consequences for the Bit O’ Red.
Dundalk advanced to the next round of the Europa League thanks to their 2-1 win over Levadia Tallin in Oriel Park last night.
A statment from the Rovers management committee read: “It means the club will not have a home league match, and the corresponding gate receipts, for 11 successive weeks during the height of summer.
“The postponement means 77 days will be the gap between our last home game with Waterford (30th June) and the next one St Patrick’s Athletic (15th September). Eleven weeks is simply a remarkable period to go without a home league fixture.
“We wish to add we have the Derry City EA Sports Cup semi-final on the August Bank Holiday, Monday 6th August, at 5pm in The Showgrounds and the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup with Longford Town on Saturday 11th August in The Showgrounds in the meantime, which we will revisit in this update.
“However, the lack of home league gates creates a challenge for the club. As always we understand our supporters will be concerned, firstly knowing they cannot enjoy watching the team in league action for 11 weeks, and then the clear financial strain it puts on us without gate receipts for such a time.
“The Bit O’ Red committee were aware we would face a number of weeks without a home league game when the fixtures were announced. We also then agreed to switch our Derry City fixture to accommodate work on the new Brandywell.
“The gesture was made in good faith and received as such. It added to the timeframe but ultimately we played our two home games with Derry and believe it was the right thing to do when the request came, given the predicament they faced when their ground was not yet fit for purpose.
“It was our hope that no league games would be postponed in the July period because of European football.
“We have competed in Europe in the recent past and recognise the difficulties of playing Thursday–Sunday–Thursday.
“However, given the importance of the game to our club, for gate receipts, for bridging the gap of lack of home games, we refused numerous requests from Dundalk FC to postpone the game. The FAI were made aware we refused to postpone the game.
“Several games have been played in the middle of European fixtures in recent years, including involving ourselves.
“It is clear that a free weekend will give Dundalk FC an additional help in Europe and we understand the benefit. We respect it and wish them well next week.
“Dundalk played at home last night (Thursday) and will do next Thursday so they face no travel issues. It was our belief the game could be played. It must be said our circumstances too were acknowledged by Dundalk FC in discussions.
“Last Saturday, league officials opted that any team that progresses in Europe would have a free weekend regardless of circumstance. We were very disappointed by this decision.
“Sligo Rovers have conveyed our disappointment to the FAI and the long period between home league games which has been added to now.
“These concerns will be reiterated and that it is not just clubs in Europe that need to be given priority in order to be successful. Clubs in our position simply cannot function with such logic.
“We wish to say to our supporters who have told us their feelings on this Sunday’s game possibly being and now being postponed that we share those feelings and voice their opinion. The decision to postpone the game is the wrong one in our view.
“This year we have had “Up The Bit O’ Red” become a huge success, a record-breaking Annual Draw, record-breaking Easter and hopefully Summer Camps, a strong suit of sponsors led by the ever-supportive Connolly’s Volkswagen and our newest partner Off The Ball, the steady income of lotto and 500 club, and 13 home league games in The Showgrounds.
“But the period ahead will still present challenges and will test the club, like a shorter one did last season. We feel we can get through it and as stated, we have prepared as best as possible for it. That does not guarantee us a clear path, but we are working hard to ensure it will be clear.
“One element of the 11-week period we do wish to stress is the importance of our Cup fixtures in The Showgrounds.
“We face Derry in 17 days‘ time with the chance of reaching our first Cup final in over four years and five days later comes our first home FAI Cup game since 2016.
“These games are now absolutely vital to the club, financially, and knowing Cup competitions represent a big part of our season and could lift us to a stronger level.
“Your support can help us do that, and we would encourage all our fans to come to the EA Sports Cup semi-final at 5pm on Monday August 6th. That is to get behind Ger’s team, add to the attendance and see where it can take us.
“The FAI Cup begins five days later and we would like to see this time be a catalyst in our season. Over the next 17 days we will be marketing and promoting these matches as much as we can so we ask you to help us on the way and spread the word.
“Recent events in the league have not been welcomed by anybody. We have sympathies for such situations and regret it is the focus of attention on Irish football now. As one of the few clubs in the Premier Division reliant on community funding, the support of the Sligo public and beyond maintains our club.
“Our supporters are aware of the landscape of our league where a future is never guaranteed but as a community club we have made it to 90 years with that backing.
“Our recent announcement of facilitating the location of a Breast Check unit in The Showgrounds was one of the most important we have ever made as words alone do not justify the importance we hold for the role of our club in our community. Actions do.
“In future we would like actions to support clubs like ours facing predicaments and 11-week fixture gaps can be avoided.