Followers of the League of Ireland will be very familiar with the league's ups and downs over the past number of decades. Sadly, there have been more downs than ups, with the league undergoing constant change and restructuring. Myself and David discuss the evolution of this since 1970 here.
We are not the only economists researching the League of Ireland. Prof. Barry Reilly from the University of Sussex recently presented during the same session as I at the 2017 Irish Economic Association Conference. His paper considers the effect days of the week have on attendance in the League of Ireland.
Unlike most leagues where broadcasting rights are by far the most important source of match day revenue, the domestic league here is difference. Gate receipts remain very important and account for 1/3 of all revenue on match days. Reilly states that this places the league 3rd in Europe, behind only Switzerland and Scotland.
Getting fans to games has been a problem and continues to be. Traditionally, match days in Ireland were Sunday. This changed in the early 1990s when Sky Sports started to broadcast live Premier League games on Sunday afternoons. League of Ireland clubs were compensated for this (mainly in the form of floodlights) and moved games to Friday and Saturday nights.
The introduction of Summer Soccer in 2003 has required the use of additional days of the week to accommodate cup matches and a two week summer break. Reilly finds the use of non-traditional days (such as Monday and Tuesday) has a significant, negative impact on attendance. The use of these days should be reconsidered by League organisers. The author suggests moving earlier rounds of the cup, where attendances are on average much lower than league games, as one possibly way to overcome fixture congestion.
Interestingly, attendance at cup games soars from the quarter-finals onward. It is suggested that two-legged cup semi-finals be adopted to help boost club coffers.