ALTHOUGH THE fans of Derry City knew that the club was in financial difficulty, the decision to throw them out of the FAI League has sent shockwaves through the city.
Fans knew that the players had not been paid for nine weeks but they were shocked to find that the club was in fact £500,000 in debt to various bodies.
After poor runs in both the FAI Cup and League Cup, Derry was left in the situation that they needed to progress to the next round of the Europa League in July, just to pay the players wages. When they didn’t, the players were asked to defer three weeks wages until the end of the season. It was the players’ decision to go public in October, when they were faced with the prospect of going nine weeks without pay. Coupled with a poor run in the League, which left Derry City with no chance of qualifying for Europe next year, this brought the crisis in the club to a head.
Many clubs in the League of Ireland and the Irish League are suffering financially. But the question has to be asked; after selling two players to Celtic for £200,000 each this year, how did Derry find themselves in this financial situation? The club’s two main sponsors went out of business in June. As a stop gap solution, the club held a competition among individuals and local businesses, the prize being to have their names put on the strip for one year, taking the place of the sponsor, with the raffle resulting in a £100,000 boost to Derry City finances.
The rise in unemployment within the Derry area, which now has the highest unemployment in the North, also resulted in a dramatic drop in takings at the turnstiles.
In addition to these factors, some Derry City players had been receiving “under the counter” payments through the use of illegal double contracts, additional to the official FAI players contracts. These unofficial contracts came to light as the FAI examined the financial situation the club had found itself in. The board’s recklessness in using secret contracts, combined with the huge debt led the FAI to throw Derry City out of the League. The Derry City directors have since resigned but after all the damage has been done.
A steering group for the future of the club has now been formed by local businessmen to liaise with the FAI for the club to retain a First Division license in the League. Derry City fans have been left out of this process. A lot of them volunteer for the club, from selling programmes and tickets, to stewarding and organising raffles. The club is nothing without the fans and the fans should have a say in every aspect of the running of the club, because without the fans there is no Derry City.