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Cork City FC have just a few days left. As the club’s official statement said today “Following High Court proceedings today, Cork City FC has been given until Friday to settle its liabilities to the Revenue.”
That amount is €439,000, and it seems rather unlikely Cork will raise that sum by Friday, despite another appeal to supporters to help out. The problem stems from serious financial mismanagement of the club over the past few years, leaving debts the club has been unable to get themselves out of.
A year ago, the Irish Independent reported that “They are arguably the most marketable club in the League of Ireland with good attendances, a decent stadium and a large catchment area with no opposition of substance. Yet the tragic reality is that this morning, Cork City’s very survival hangs in the balance.”
Unable to resolve their financial crises since then, Cork have just a few days left now to find a way to survive.
It has been a long road for Cork to this final denouement. Formed in 1984 amidst the ashes of numerous failed Cork football club dreams (Cork Celtic tried to hit the big time with George Best and Geoff Hurst, but ended up bankrupt in 1979), the club had some notable success, with two league titles and a famous 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich in 1991.
The passionate and strong crowds at times showed potential, but this promise has often translated into reckless ambition, epitomised by the takoever of the club by shady investment fund Arkaga in 2007.
Arkaga promised to to pump funds in and make Cork Ireland’s biggest success story. But Arkaga were gambling on the formation of a potentially lucrative All-Ireland League raising the value of their investment — when this fizzled out, they reneged on their promises of investment and left the club €1.3 million in debt.
And unfortunately for Cork fans, it soon became evident that Arkaga were headed by a man “fraudulently misrepresenting himself” as a Lamborghini dealer. When Arkaga pulled the plug, Cork were left in disarray — players were forced to take a 70% pay cut, and a dozen staff were laid off. The FAI’s Chief Executive John Delaney was scathing in his criticism of Arkaga : “What Arkaga did is a disgrace. It’s just not right what they did. To leave people down, leave the club down, the supporters down, the management and players down, is just not right.”
Since the departure of Arkaga, the club has been unable to find a sure financial footing, despite the players continual willingness to forgo pay and the help of Cork native Roy Keane, who brought over his Ipswich team for a lucrative recent friendly.
Cork’s demise is symbolic of the ongoing financial crisis in the League of Ireland (we reported last year on the problems at Cobh Ramblers). Costs continue to exceed income across the league, who seem unable to keep their clubs on a path of fiscal prudence.