Players in Ireland calling for improved match facilities


Share this quote

  • The Professional Footballers Association of Ireland (PFA Ireland) wants to improve the quality of pitches, dressing rooms and stadiums

  • Through a survey, players rated the quality of facilities in Republic of Ireland stadiums

  • Only two or three stadiums were considered up to standard

The Professional Footballers Association of Ireland (PFA Ireland) is striving to improve the quality of facilities in the men’s and women’s top leagues. They involved the players, who shared their experiences through a survey.

"We know that there are issues at some stadiums, and it is time that these issues are resolved," said PFA Ireland Player Executive John McGuinness. "The feedback from the players has been really useful in helping us to create an overview of the issues that we then presented to the federation."

PFA Ireland invited players from the men’s top two leagues and the women’s top league, to indicate which facilities were of an acceptable standard and which weren’t, and to rank the quality of pitches, changing facilities, player toilet facilities, and spectator and media facilities.

In total, 461 players (356 men and 105 women) completed the survey. "It is what we already knew, but the survey showed that a lot of the facilities are outdated," said McGuinness. "Many dressing rooms are too small for squads, who are much bigger nowadays and require space for a physio and massage table. In some cases, teams are changing in two stages, with the starting eleven changing first and the substitutes next."

Peamount United are the reigning League of Ireland Women's Premier Division champions

Other aspects mentioned included lack of toilets or locks on toilet doors, water being either too hot or too cold, showers not working at all, and shower areas being used as a physio room. Players also indicated that the quality of artificial pitches were not up to standard. "Players simply don’t like playing on these pitches. Many of them are overused, which is detrimental to the quality of the surface."

The purpose of the survey is to improve the standard of the facilities in Republic of Ireland. "We are not doing this to criticise the clubs,” McGuinness explains. "It puts pressure on clubs or the federation to fix some things in the short term, to ensure that the working environment is safe and up to standard for the players.

"Some of the issues are simple fixes that need to be put right. But by raising awareness about how neglected these facilities have been, we also focus on the government to support clubs with long-term funding.

"According to the players, only two or three clubs have facilities that they consider being of a professional standard. We want our government to support football and help solve these issues. If you look at GAA [Editor’s note: Gaelic Athletic Association], they have far better facilities, while it is an amateur sport. Football is the most participated sport in our country. It needs proper funding for better or updated infrastructure."

Tolka Park, the home of Shelbourne

Not all issues require a huge investment, as McGuinness explains: "I’ll give you an example. Recently, we solved one of the problems: the showers at Tolka Park (the home of Shelbourne) were too hot. This issue existed while I was playing in the league, as did our General Secretary, Stephen McGuinness, and we finished playing in the league in 2011 and 2005 respectively. We both assumed that it had been fixed, as no player complained about it before, but the survey pointed out that this issue still existed. And then with one telephone call, that was sorted; they hired a plumber, who fixed the problem within an hour.

"These are not big issues, but you want players to be able to take a shower without losing their skin. However small, these matters can have an impact on the players, who sometimes have to sit on a bus for five hours or more after a match, while they hadn’t been able to take a proper shower because it was too hot."

The PFA Ireland closely cooperates with the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) to upgrade the quality of stadiums and training grounds. "We have close communication with the league and with the FAI facilities and licensing departments. Each week, through our delegates, the players inform us about any issues they encountered over the weekend. We follow up with the FAI, who can inform the clubs to resolve these issues.

"It has been working well so far, I think about 10 issues have been dealt with since the start of the season, but it is imperative that we continue to push for better standards in what is the players' place of work."