I’m pretty sure we don’t charge children [or rather their parents] for being mascots in the League of Ireland. If I’m wrong about that I won’t eat my hat or my season ticket but I will be hugely disappointed.
Based on a few seasons helping out with the Bray Wanderers Junior Supporters Club a decade or so ago, I know that we were always delighted to get children asking to be mascot. You put your name down and waited until the next available home game. The occasion was made special for them, photographs with the players and some kit were amongst the goodies they took home to remember the day.
The idea of charging for the above would have been completely alien to all involved. I have to say I was shocked and saddened to read over the holidays about some Premier League clubs in England charging as much as £600 [Leicester City] and £700 [West Ham United] for ‘mascot packages’. Often a jersey or match ticket wasn’t even included, if you can figure that one out. I suppose I shouldn’t have been shocked; in a league where everything is monetised children are fair game.
The story gained a wider circulation because Gary Linekerweighed in on Twitter [‘’Dreadful avarice. So wealthy kids can buy the role but poor kids can’t. Nice’’ was his contribution]. Lineker is right of course but the condemnation is a bit hollow at best [and a blatant attempt at populism at worst] from someone who makes almost as much as the League’s megastars for sitting on the Match Of The Day couch. Perhaps if he’d offered to pay the £11,400 it would cost to allow 19 mascots get the gig free for a season’s worth of Leicester City home games I’d have been more impressed. Perhaps he will for next season; it would be a day’s wages well spent for him.
Not all the clubs were found to be engaging in this ‘dreadful avarice’. Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United offered the gig for free. Presumably these clubs have hundreds if not thousands of kids wanting the gig in any given week and simply select at random from a lottery system. You can’t ask for fairer than that.
I’m not sure to what extent the practice of charging for mascots persists as you go down the leagues in England. We could always ask Martin O’Neill, now that he’s pitched up at Forest in the Championship. It’s ironic that if he’d had a bit more experience of Championship players, he could have done better with Ireland. Still, he’s a legend at the City Ground and good luck to him; he has an opportunity to put the recent failure with Ireland behind him.
Mascots aside, hopefully we will have more ‘kids go free’ days at League of Ireland games this season. It makes good sense for the league to do this in that an adult will have to accompany their son or daughter to the game, and if they like what they see then they will return and hopefully become regulars.