RTE's Monday Night Soccer's coverage of UCD AFC has been unacceptable in recent weeks.
Having watched last night’s episode of MNS and last week’s episode of MNS there are a number of things that need to be addressed in relation to UCD AFC.
In the episode 09/07/12, Dave Barry remarks, “They are bottom of the table UCD, there is no pressure on them, financially there is no talk about paying rent or mortgages.” “UCD haven’t got that burden, I have to pass my exams, I can go home or whatever.” “Whereas UCD (presume he meant Dundalk) are a professional club, trying to play in a professional league and stay in this league which is very very difficult”
Martin Russell took the opportunity to respond to these remarks because he saw it as an attempt to ridicule the work done by UCD AFC. UCD AFC operates in the same professional league as every other club in the Premier Division, and tries equally as hard on and off the field to stay in the league. Not only that, UCD operate in the same financial environment as every other club in the league, taking on the added expense of putting their players through the education system. Dave Barry was comparing UCD and Dundalk and UCD appear to come off second best in this comparison when he talks about professionalism and a desire to stay in the league, Martin states that his players are encouraged to show the same desire and ambition to ensure they keep improving and as a result UCD remain in the top division. The players at UCD should not be ridiculed for making a conscientious decision to pursue their education while also taking on the pressures of playing against the best sides in the country week in week out.
In episode 16/07/12, you appear bemused by the fact Martin is upset with Dave Barry’s comments, “I’m not 100% sure what upset Martin Russell, I know Dave was saying that UCD aren’t under the same pressure that maybe some of the other clubs are under financially and so on with the whole college structure behind them. Martin didn’t seem to be too happy with what Dave had to say. UCD what do they bring to the league in terms of...?”. I hope the previous paragraph has gone some way to explaining Martin’s sense of injustice. To say UCD do not incur financial pressures like other clubs is just not true. We do not attract sponsors to our club in the same way that others do and this means that the funds needed to ensure our ability to compete financially must come from other sources. While the College do provide support, our Summer Camps and internal Superleague are as important to the financial well being of the club. Two activities that require much more than the presentation of a cheque from an interested company.
“What do UCD bring to the league in terms of...?” starts the debate which goes no further than Pat and Liam telling us how difficult it is to play in UCD’s home ground because of the lack of a crowd. This was not what Martin took exception to, the debate then goes on with one mention of UCD’s financial situation. UCD AFC does not budget on its crowds, it would be foolhardy to do so, if other clubs realised the fickle nature of football fans they might not find themselves in such difficult financial positions. At the end of the 2010 season 14 players left our first team squad, not because we didn’t want them but because we could not afford to keep them. It was a difficult decision to make no doubt but ultimately a sensible one that was made for the good of the club and the next generation of players coming through.
Martin’s post match interview was carried out on Sunday afternoon, presumably on Monday you would have had the opportunity to speak to Martin to find out exactly what his grievance was with what Dave Barry had to say. Instead what followed was an ill informed chat about what UCD bring to the league that started and finished with a comment about crowds. UCD do not bring great crowds to the league, that is not up for discussion, what should be up for discussion is that UCD have produced, nurtured and developed players that have gone on to successful careers both in football and in the business world. UCD gives every player that plays for UCD the opportunity to grow and be ambitious, surely that is what UCD AFC should be known for.
You do say that you enjoy going to watch games in the Bowl which is brilliant, and that you wish more people would go to watch the club play. Why not do something about it? Stop calling into question UCD’s place in the Airtricity League Premier Division.
I have been watching UCD play for over 15 years, a drop in the ocean compared to others involved in our club, several things have remained consistent in this time. UCD’s ability to produce top quality players, remain in the top flight of Irish football and unfortunately have their status questioned time and again on the basis that our support base is not what it could or should be.
This mail is borne out of the frustration I feel having worked for UCD for the last 2 years trying to build up the profile of the club and to watch that work torn apart in front of a considerable television audience. UCD AFC works tirelessly with local schools, local schoolboy clubs, charities and students to try and raise our profile in the wider community. We are battling with the huge popularity of Leinster rugby as well as the poor image of the game of football in Ireland. It is often said that UCD should have more students following the team. The league runs from March to the end of October, this year the league started during the two week break on campus, after that break the run in to exams starts. Students are under huge pressure to pass exams and as a result do not feel they have time to go watch a football game. Come May the campus is empty, the students return in the second week in September and by the time we get to the end of October we will have played 3 home games.
I would love to construct a marketing campaign that incorporates print media in the locality, including bus shelters and local DART stations, but the budget simply does not exist for this to happen. In its place we connect with a smaller number of local groups through summer camps, charity events, soccer blitzes etc. If this situation was reversed and a bigger budget was given to the marketing of the club, we would have a well marketed club with no money to pay the players, no one wants that. Now tell me we don’t operate with financial pressures.
If there is one thing that I would like you to take from this mail it is that every time your show belittles or condescends our players or staff think about what that does to the people that have worked tirelessly to put the club in the position it is in today. Dundalk has run itself into the ground if media reports are to be believed but somehow they manage to come out of a discussion on MNS with more positive words than UCD do. Let us not forget that UCD went from tenth in the table to bottom of the league by virtue of the fact that Monaghan United ceased to exist.
Let us end on a positive with a suggestion that might once and for all end this “debate” about UCD’s reason for existence. Round up all the current players playing in the LOI or abroad who have come through the UCD system. They have left UCD, they are no longer connected to the club, ask them for their opinion on this club. They are what is important in this league, if they feel that the club has hampered their development then maybe UCD AFC should drop out of the league, but if the response is in any way positive then that surely should end the era where it is acceptable to pose the question, “What do UCD bring to the league in terms of...?”
This league will never reach the heights it deserves to reach if all those interested in seeing it succeed do not work together.
UCD GAA’s Dave Billings put it best http://ucdsoccer.com/component/content/article/49/1454