When Finn Harps club secretary John Campbell sat down with local media on Tuesday afternoon, finance was very much on his mind.
The club’s senior team complete their league programme with a game at home to Cabinteely tomorrow night, Saturday. It will be the last game at Finn Park for three weeks until Ollie Horgan’s men lock horns with Shelbourne, Drogheda or Longford Town in the Play-off semi-final.
The winners of that game will go on to play Limerick FC, over two legs, for a place in next year’s Premier Division.
In the meantime, players wages have to be honoured on a limited income stream.
While the club will receive €10,000 in prize-money for finishing runners-up to UCD in Division One, Campbell outlined the present state of play at the club as regards the challenging financial conditions.
“The cost of running the club doesn’t stop even though the first team won’t have a home match in three weeks after this weekend. With that in mind we’re appealing for supporters to come to Finn Park on Saturday night.
“We started a re-building process at the beginning of the season and we’re delighted to be in the play-offs. This is an opportunity for the supporters to thank Ollie and his players for their efforts,” he said.
“The fact that Harps finished second means that after Saturday’s game with Cabinteely we don’t have a home match until October 19 and while we do get prize money we still want to make an appeal for the fans to come out.
“We had a draw pencilled in for Saturday night but we’re now pushing that back until the play-off game in the hope that people will support the draw and help us bridge the gap financially,” Campbell added.
Outlining the escalating costs of running a League of Ireland club in Donegal, the club secretary said that it would cost €25,000 to have an U13 team competing in the national league next season.
With teams at U13, 15, 17 and 19 level that equates to €100,000 per year, money which some feel would be better spent on strengthening the first-team squad in a bid to make them more competitive in the upper echelons of League of Ireland football.
However, John Campbell said the budget for the new season would include four underage teams competing on the national stage.
“There is a financial cost but it’s the way the club have decided to go. We have come into this with our eyes wide open,” he said.
Unfortunately, strained finances and Finn Harps Football Club have all too often been used in the same sentence over the years.
“Nothing really changes. In football we’re living hand to mouth – week to week – but we’re hoping that the success of Ollie and the lads will help get the fans out this weekend,” he said.
“I do accept that we do need to place a far sharper focus on things during the close season – be that fund-raising or commercial. We’ve got to front-load things a lot more but, in our defence, there’s just so much that club members – who are all volunteers – can do.
“Hopefully when the U13s are up and running we’ll get a little more time to work on fund-raising efforts. Every underage team we take into the circle puts €25,000 onto our annual bill. It’s as simple as that,” he said.
Harps manager Ollie Horgan is adamant that the club can not afford to cut any corners if they want to keep pace with the game’s protagonists.
“If you don’t compete with the bigger clubs at U13 level you’re already a step behind them and that’s why I think it’s important that we should continue along this road.
“It’s a long process. It used to be trying to bridge the gap from U19 to senior but now it starts at U13 level. It’s a long road for the kids. They will have a lot of miles on the clock and there’s no doubt that we’ll lose players along the way but I feel that we have to put the right structures in place to compete at that level,” Horgan said.
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