• Home
  • /
  • Football
  • /
  • Where Did It All Go Wrong And What's Next For Bray Wanderers?

Where Did It All Go Wrong And What's Next For Bray Wanderers?

David Kent
By David Kent
Share this article

One of the oldest clubs in the League of Ireland is on its last legs.

During the week, Bray Wanderers players were told that the club only had a week's wages left and that they were free to go to other clubs if they so wished. It's not the first time Bray have diced with death in their 31 year League history.

Where did it all go wrong?

At the start of 2015, they were investigated for fraud. Then, they weren't awarded a Premier Division license initially by the FAI.  By their 20th league game, they were already onto their 5th manager, and the crowds were extremely low. There were strong rumours that their players weren't being paid, and still owed money to former players like Darren Quigley. A failed takeover by the McGettigan's group left chairman Denis O'Connor facing stern questioning in May:

As the Carlisle Grounds were being redeveloped - Rugby League Ireland were making the ground their new home - the players released a statement via the PFAI about the non-payment of their wages:

It all led to a takeover by the Millway Dawn group, which brings us to this season.

The club launched a 'strategic, five-year plan' at the end of 2016. That confirmed plans for the club to begin a move to Stepaside with a training academy and for a redevelopment for the Carlisle Grounds. It featured a couple of key lines:


Bray Wanderers has stepped back into the community. It has opened its doors and welcomed its core supporters back into the Carlisle. The tide has been turned – people are returning to the grounds to support their team.

The club is hugely reliant on its current financial backer. Before he came on board, the club was facing significant financial problems which threatened its very existence. The club require this continued backing in order to bring the development outlined in this document to realisation.

In the club aims, the board listed the following:

  • Over a period of five years, the first team to finish in top four of League or win FAI Cup.
  • Attendance at home matches to reach an average of 1,500 per game.
  • A new, 8,000 capacity stadium

Some of these aims were realistic (the top four finish), but some were completely unrealistic for a club the size of Bray. But over five years, maybe they could get some of it done with the right money management.

In 2016, Bray's expenditure was €560,000 with only €94,000 income.

The alarm bells starting ringing among League of Ireland fans when Bray began offering two-year contracts to players. This has been normal practice for a major player at the likes of Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers or Cork City, clubs regularly bringing in minimum 1,500+ crowds to home games. Bray attracted some top players as well, like Gary McCabe from the Hoops, and Dylan Connolly.


League of Ireland fans had seen it all before. Drogheda United, Shelbourne, Sporting Fingal, Cork City all poured money into player's wages and transfer fees- and all had paid for it dearly. Drogheda went from 2007 League champions to fighting relegation. Shelbourne were denoted in 2006 and have only returned to the top table once since. Sporting Fingal went bust, while Cork City were also denoted. All had one common link - an owner who spent above the club's means.

The FAI should have noticed the trend back in February.

It seemed unsustainable for Bray to able to hand out longer contracts given their income. Nonetheless, they were awarded a Premier Division license for 2017 by the FAI at the first time of asking. On the pitch, the Seagulls were flying. They beat Dundalk in Oriel Park, Derry City in Maginn Park and then thumped Shamrock Rovers at home.


But their crowds were still averaging well below what was sustainable.

O'Connor released a bizarre statement at half time on Friday's game against Dundalk, claiming that just over 100 adult season tickets had been sold. Unsurprising, given that they cost €200 - almost double the price of last years.

It's halfway through the season. The club has one week's worth of wages left. They brought in €35,000-40,000 for the transfer of Connolly - but then ran out of money the week after.


What happens next?

Well, first of all, Bray's senior side have a choice. Take a pay cut and go to a new club, or play for free at Bray. They're currently third in the table on 33 points - which would probably be enough to keep them above the relegation zone should they lose the guts of their squad.

Balls understands that reports the under 19's could be promoted to senior status for the rest of the season are untrue.

Conor Clancy is a reporter from Bray for the official SSE Airtricity League website and a contributor to TheseFootyTimes. He spoke to us about the situation:

This has been coming. They [the board] wildly overspent and it was idiotic. I thought they were happy to overspend this year to get a few big European pay days next season. 

The two-year deals have been a thing for a while, but there are a few players there now on over €1,500 a week, which is obviously madness for most clubs, nevermind one the size of Bray.

The blame lies with the O'Connors' from my view. We've seen enough times now that there is not enough support there.

I have seen a message from a player that said the players were told to find new clubs as Bray will fold on Friday.

Should Bray be wound up, it gets very messy for the FAI and the league. There is no clear cut rule about what happens to their results etc. When Monaghan United collapsed in 2012, their results were expunged with clubs losing or gaining points as a result. However, since it's over halfway in the season, there's a possibility that every remaining fixture will be awarded as a 3-0 to Bray's opponent.

Clancy believes that the situation is grim regardless:

I think it is just seen as a business venture to make money off the land but even at that, the club don't own the ground so I don't even know how that would work.

Being optimistic, they play the kids and end up in the First Division next season. But honestly if it doesn't happen this Friday it'll happen before the season is over I fear.

In terms of the league structure, the FAI already announced that next year will be two divisions of ten. But with Bray potentially folding, they have to decide whether to count that as a relegation, and only relegate two in October,  or open up an extra promotion spot in the First Division.

Whether Bray continue to exist at an underage level (as Monaghan United do) is yet to be seen. The next couple of days will tell all.

SEE ALSO: Patrick McEleney's Personal 'Goal Of The Season' Competition Is A Total Pisstake


Join The Monday Club Have a tip or something brilliant you wanted to share on? We're looking for loyal Balls readers free-to-join members club where top tipsters can win prizes and Balls merchandise

Processing your request...

You are now subscribed!

Share this article

Copyright © 2024. All rights reserved. Developed by Square1 and powered by PublisherPlus.com