by Plunkett Carter
Cork City Football Club supporters, and followers of the League of Ireland as a whole, breathed a sigh of relief in October 2008 when, following an uneasy two-month period, a financial scheme aimed at the survival of the club was approved in the Commercial Court.
In October 2008, property developer Tom Coughlan was given the go-ahead by the Commercial Court to take over ownership of Cork City Football Club. Previously, the Court heard, CorkCity owed its creditors €1.3 million, including €360,000 to the Revenue Commissioners. A number of players and staff had to be let go and the fortnightly wages bill had been reduced from €91,000 to €71,000. However, the club continued to be beset with financial problems, and outstanding tax receipts led to the issuing of a ‘winding up’ order by the High Court in July 2009. After several stays and extensions, the club was given final notice to pay all outstanding Revenue debts by 5 August 2009.
Eventually, after capturing funds from the transfers of several key players, the promise of gate receipts from a friendly match with Celtic, and with ‘advance payments’ from some sponsors, the club secured its outstanding balance. A bank draft of €219,000 was submitted to the Cork office of the Revenue Commissioners a couple of hours before the 4.30 p.m. deadline, and club chairman Tom Coughlan, who was also a director of Cork City Investments Ltd against whom the legal action was taken, confirmed that a London bank had stepped in to assist the club in completing the €439,000 tax liability. So, the High Court quashed the winding-up order and Cork City, in football since 1984, survived to fight another day.
The other Cork club, Cobh Ramblers, whose origins are as old as the game itself, managed to avoid examinership in 2008, yet their financial difficulties and mounting debts, said to be over £300,000, appeared to be even more insurmountable. Promoted as champions of Division 1 in 2007, they were relegated again during the following season. Subsequently, they failed to obtain a license for the FAI First Division due to financial constraints and so were forced to compete in the Newstalk ‘A’ Championship (Ireland's third tier) during the 2009 season.
With these huge sums of money being bandied about it is worth recalling that Cork City (1938) was expelled from football on 30 Jan 1940 for refusing to pay a meagre £10 fine.
Cork City (1938) was just one of our many League of Ireland teams who were forced to withdraw from league soccer because of financial difficulties or expulsion. Cork soccer history is unique and, unlike that of any other in this county, it is littered with withdrawals because of varying financial troubles or irregularities. Bohemians (Dublin) were founded well over a century ago and advanced from amateurism to become one of the finest clubs in the country. In that period, nine Leeside clubs — Fordsons 1924-30, Cork FC 1940-38, Cork Bohemians 1932-34, Cork City 1938-40, Cork United 1939-48, Cork Athletic 1948-57, Cork Hibernians 1957-76, Evergreen / Cork Celtic 1951-79, Albert Rovers / Cork Alberts / Cork United 1976-82 — entered the League of Ireland club obituary column.