Finn Harps in a different financial league to their Premier Division rivals - Horgan

Finn Harps in a different financial league to their Premier Division rivals - Horgan

Finn Harps really are in a different world financially to some of their Airtricity League Premier Division rivals.

Last night, Dundalk went into their UEFA Champions League qualifying round second-leg clash with Latvian champions Riga FC knowing that their cash windfall was at least €660,000.

That’s more than Harps’ entire budget for the whole season.

And it’s a similar story for the League of Ireland’s other European representatives.

Shamrock Rovers, St Patrick's Athletic and Cork City get a minimum of €220,000 for taking part in the preliminary round of the Europa League this summer.

Rovers, having drawn 2-2 away to Bergen of Norway, are in with a decent chance tonight of qualifying for the next round - and that would mean a further €240,000.

But Cork City (0-2) and St. Patrick’s Athletic (0-2) both face uphill battles in their second-legs away to Progres Niederkorn (Luxembourg) and Nornkoping (Sweden) this evening.

The injection of European games money into clubs is a massive boost, but there can be downsides.

The European cash leads to an even greater disparity. And for smaller clubs like Harps, one wonders if the gap will ever narrow.

Dundalk are now dominant, and will be the team to catch for many seasons ahead.

And should a League of Ireland club get through to the group stages of either the Europa League or Champions League, the rewards are even greater.

For Dundalk, the aim is to replicate a club like Rosenborg of Norway. They have played 32 season in European competitions and are regularly in the Champions League.

They have become dominant in Norway, splashing the cash and being assured of challenging for honours consistently.

If a League of Ireland club reached the group stages of the Champions League it would propel them into a different stratosphere financially.

Games would surely be played at the Aviva. Can you imagine Juventus, Real Madrid or Liverpool coming to Dublin for a Champions League match. It would be a guaranteed sell-out.

Another downside, however, is the cash collapse scenario. Clubs may well spend a lot based on European income, but if they subsequently have a poor season, finances can deteriorate quickly.

Indeed, Cork City are a case in point. They have been in the two top for the past few years. But this season they are struggling and if they have no European football next season, that will mean considerably less income to spend on their squad.

As Harps secretary John Campbell has repeatedly pointed out, not only is their a vast gulf between the sides, clubs like Harps have a smaller commercial and sponsorship pool to call upon and are more dependent than others on gate receipts.

It is understood that at least two clubs in the league had sponsorship deals clinched before the start of the current season that were worth more than Harps’ budget for 2019-2020 which will come in at around €500,000 - €600,000.

Manager Ollie Horgan has also made reference to the fact that the Airtricity League Premier Division table over the past few seasons almost mirrors exactly the financial clout of the various clubs.

As is the case in pretty much every top league in Europe, the big boys are getting stronger and it is becoming increasingly difficult for the poorer resourced clubs to compete. Money is key.