Apologies for my recent silence but I've been very busy. Despite that, I can't let one very, very annoying story rumble on past without comment.
The story comes from the world of Irish football and concerns Bohemians FC. For our foreign readers, or for those of you seemingly unaware that association football is, in fact, played here, Bohemians are one of Ireland's most successful clubs. This decade alone, Bohs have won three League of Ireland titles and two FAI Cups. They've also been moderately successful in Europe - the win over Aberdeen in 2000 was probably their highlight. All in all, they're one of our finest.
Like all clubs, Bohs have been hit hard by this recession you may have heard about, but then again who hasn't? And Bohs' appearance in the Champions League this season, not to mention prize money from last season's League and Cup wins, as well as appearance money in the Setanta Sports Cup, should mean that they're able to stomach the downturn. Unfortunately, no. This week it was revealed that Bohs were bailed out by the FAI to the tune of €100,000 earlier this season. The cash was not a gift, nor a loan, but (according to the FAI) an advance on monys paid to Bohs by UEFA for their brief appearance in the Champions League.
This is a disgrace. In a year when Cork City were on the brink and when clubs like Galway United, Sligo Rovers and Drogheda have all struggled, why do Bohemians deserve money? The FAI say that the nature of this money isn't a loan and thus means that they're not contributing to the club's operational costs, but so what? A loan is a loan and by all accounts this money was given to Bohs to ensure their financial stability. So why them? Why not any other struggling League of Ireland club?
When it comes to sport, favouratism cannot be allowed from any figures of authority. Not from a referee, not from officials and certainly not from the body charged with running the game. The FAI say that what they have done is not unusual, and even say that they've done similar favours for other clubs but that's not good enough either. Clubs should live within their budgets, even in times like this when all clubs are struggling financially. Bailouts shouldn't be given, to anyone.
All any fan wants is fairness. We want our lot to win, sure, but more important than that is the knowledge that the playing field is level. A mere suggestion of bias towards one side or another comprimises the integrity of the game and in an instance such as this happens. Fans of other clubs can now argue that 'the FAI love Bohs 'cos they gave them all that cash' and while that may not be the case, this bailout is enough to plant seeds of doubt into the fans of other clubs, including your's truly.
This money, though well intentioned, was an own goal.