Ollie Horgan will sit down with the Finn Harps Board of Directors tonight as talks begin for the 2019 season.
Harps are planning for a return to the Premier Division and Horgan has already expressed his concern at the club’s ability to compete financially in the top flight.
The Galwegian, who has been at Harps for four full seasons now, has one year left to run on a two-year deal signed last December.
However, there are fears that Horgan could be prepared to quit unless he is convinced he has the necessary backing.
Since winning promotion via a promotion-relegation play-off win over Limerick, Horgan issued a public plea to businesses in the north-west to come on board with the club.
“Unless we get things right off the pitch, we won’t be staying in the Premier Division,” the Harps manager warned.
“It’s a more difficult Division than it was when we went up the last time.”
Harps are going into a ten-team Premier Division for the first time.
They were relegated last year when their position, 11th, would ordinarily have meant a play-off place.
That was in spite of an increase in wage expenditure of €70,000 from the previous year.
Back in 2008, Harps missed out on survival by a point when they went full time and spent in excess of €900,000. They were one of three teams – along with UCD and Cobh – automatically relegated that year.
The landscape is much changed now, but the task for Harps going into the top flight is every bit as daunting.
Harps will require a top eight finish to avoid a play-off and, already, their aim is more likely to be to battle it out with UCD and attempt to finish in a play-off berth.
As things stand, Harps have no players under contract for 2019.
Limerick FC were relegated by Harps having had a playing budget of around €7,000 per week at the start of the 2018 season.
According to figures in a blog by John O’Connor, Sligo Rovers spent €546,000 on wages in 2017 and they struggled for long swathes of the season just gone.
Derry City were the eighth placed team in the 2018 Premier Division, but can call on the financial muscle of the chairman, Philip O’Doherty.
The likes of Bohemians (€7,500) and St Patrick’s Athletic (€10,000) can all spend well in excess of Harps each week and it makes Horgan’s job all the tougher.
Harps’ budget has significantly risen from the €93,000 outlay in 2014, Horgan’s first year at the helm.
Harps will be able to bank on two home games against Derry City and Sligo Rovers in 2019, while gates, in general, will show a rise.
But the challenge for Harps is to balance the books – as they have so prudently done in the ten years since relegation in 2008 – while at the same time ensuring that Horgan is backed sufficiently.
O’Connor showed that Harps take in only 17 per cent of Cork City and half of what Bohemians bring in.
“This disparity in terms of revenue immediately puts them at a disadvantage in terms of staying competitive,” he wrote.
Harps have another year to go on their sponsorship deal with the KN Group, believed to be worth around €20,000 per annum. By comparison, it is a modest figure in League of Ireland terms.
With a financial backer/donor unlikely to emerge from the shadows, Harps’ sponsorship and commercial dealings will go a long way to determining just how successful or otherwise their latest – and toughest ever – sojourn to the Premier Division will be.
In times gone by, Harps had employees in commercial, financial or administrative roles and a similar appointment would probably be required to take the club into a stratosphere resembling that in which north-west rivals Derry and Sligo – who have the added impact of the arrivals of Declan Devine and Liam Buckley – reside.
Harps won’t be able to offer a full-time approach as most of their Premier Division rivals will do and will lean heavily on Horgan’s recruitment knack in the coming weeks and months.
Convincing Horgan – who is already the third longest serving manager in the club’s history – that they have the capability to dig deep is the first task facing the club’s Board this evening.Tags: