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On Friday December 16th, FIFPro will organize its second consecutive FIFPro Winter Tournament for out of contract footballers. The same four teams who participated in January this year, will compete again in Oslo: Norway, Finland, Sweden and Ireland.


The team of the Irish footballers’ association PFAI already started its preparation, as manager Trevor Croly and his staff began the PFAI training camp In Dublin last week with 26 players, who will be training regularly until the kick off of the FIFPro Winter Tournament.


There could have been many more players at the PFAI training camp. This Monday, Stephen McGuinness, the general secretary of the Irish union released a list of 120 players seeking a new club. He revealed that a staggering 90 per cent of all players in the Airtricity League are out of contract.


In Ireland it’s a rarity that a club signs a professional footballer to a multiyear contract. Even the recently crowned 2011 Best Player in the Airtricity League is out of contract: Eamon Zayed scored 22 goals for Derry City, the most of any player in this league, but his club has not signed him up yet. Zayed is one of the 26 players training at the PFAI training camp.


Simon Madden is also seeking a new contract, even though he was the captain of Dundalk and played every second of every competitive match his team played this season, 50 games in total for the Airtricity League’s number seven team.


Monday at the PFAI’s training camp press conference, the 23-year old right back said: ‘You see teams in England giving players contracts for three or four years. You can see why these players give everything. You see them kissing the badge. Over here, you could be kissing 12 badges throughout your career. You could be with a different club each year. We need a bit of loyalty back from clubs. I think sometimes respect isn’t there.’


Clubs in Ireland are signing players to a one-year (40- week) contract in recent years in an effort to scale back their costs. ‘This is the biggest problem we have got in the league’, says PFAI general secretary McGuinness. ‘Sligo Rovers, who were in the Cup Final two weeks ago, have no players in contract. How can that happen? How can a team who won the cup and finished second in the League have no players in contract? Its beggars belief.’


‘How are you supposed to build a club, build a fan base when every year clubs are changing players all the time and there is so much insecurity as well? It does not make sense to me. Clubs need to have a bit more foresight. You need a two or three-year plan to build a club. What’s happening now is that players are leaving.’





Simon Madden and Chris Fagan: seeking a new club




Picture above: goalkeeping coach Gary Rogers, PFAI General Secretary Stephen McGuinness and manager Trevor Croly