Publication of the latest Football Association of Ireland accounts today doesn’t make for good reading. According to RTE, the Association has revealed debts of €50 million and a fall in overall income to €36 million, down 19% since 2012. The removal of all debt by 2020 must be in doubt and depends largely on whether Ireland can qualify for
Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.
Speaking of the World Cup, while it has been compelling so far, it’s just not the same without Ireland. Those of us of a particular vintage will remember Italia ’90 and USA ’94 and the excitement that the Boys in Green brought to the country. Sadly, I don’t see these days returning soon. We just don’t seem to have the talent.
Well one reason might be that we just don’t have the population. 4.8 million people is small by international standards and when one considers we play a variety of other sports at top-class international level, not to mention indigenous sports, it’s easy to see why we can't compete. But there is a solution. The famous ‘Granny’ Rule. This could be the solution to both our qualification problems and the FAI account imbalance.
According to FIFA “…a player may represent more than one Association in an international match so long as that player, in addition to having the relevant nationality, fulfils at least one of the following conditions:
1. His birth is in the territory of the relevant Association;
2. Either his biological mother or father was born in the territory of the Association;
3. Either his grandmother or grandfather were born in the territory of the Association;
4.The player has lived continuously in the territory of the Association for at least two years.”
Famously, Ireland and Irish teams have been mocked and derided for ‘not being Irish’. Such taunts were directed mainly at Jack Charlton’s squad during the 1990s with the team sometimes referred to as ‘England B’. Did we care that just 6 of the 22 players that travelled to Italy in 1990 were born in the Republic? At USA ‘94 only 7 players were born on the island. The rest were born in England (13) and Scotland (2). Again, did we care?
England shamelessly courted Adnan Januzaj this year before the Belgian born player, with Kosovar-Albanian roots, declared for his country of birth. Brazilian born Diego Costa lined out for Spain at the World Cup this summer. The German team that lines out tonight against Brazil could contain two Polish born Germans in Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose.
For some reason we have turned our back on the "Granny" approach. The graph to the right shows the mix or Irish born (entire island) versus Great Britain born players for the four finals we have appeared at with sqauds of 22 or 23 players.
The number of Irish born players has grown steadily since 1990, with less dependence on English, Scottish and Welsh expatriates. Amazingly, or maybe not so, as the home-grown talent has risen, our performance level has declined. We import lots of goods and services. Why not professional footballers? Could anyone say the Italia '90 squad was 'less representative of Ireland' than the Euro 2012 squad? I certainly don’t think so.
We don’t have the population to compete; this gives us a ‘get-out-of-jail’ card. It’s time to get back to basics and start checking ancestry again. This could not only solve our qualification problems, as it did in the past, but also ensure the FAI has the financial muscle to compete internationally.