First Carling Nations Cup likely to be last after poor attendances in Dublin
The first Carling Nations Cup tournament will almost certainly be the last to be sponsored by the brewers after a combination of public apathy, call-offs from squads and the volume of negative comment exposed the competition to ridicule, Telegraph Sport understands.
Useful exercise: Scotland manager Craig Levein spent valuable time with his players last week Photo: ACTION IMAGES
By Roddy Forsyth 11:00PM BST 30 May 2011
However, a revival of the Home Championship – perhaps also involving the Republic of Ireland – remains on the cards for a one-off tournament in 2013.
The date is significant because the Football Association will celebrate its 140th anniversary that year and the participation of England is much more likely as a consequence, probably with Vauxhall as sponsors, although the difficulty of fitting games into a crowded calendar in which club football is now clearly dominant remains a thorny problem. As matters stand, Carling are still officially interested in sponsoring the tournament that currently bears their name in two years’ time, with Wales as hosts and the Millennium Stadium as the venue.
The brewing company has still to complete its cost-benefit analysis of this season’s Nations Cup, which began with two games in Dublin in February and concluded with a series of four matches over the last week, the culmination of which was the Republic’s 1-0 victory over Scotland on Sunday night in Dublin.
That game at least drew a respectable crowd, although two official attendances were given out, but the Aviva Stadium was half-full at best.
Meagre crowds made the competition a poor spectacle. The figure of 529 stated to be the crowd size for last Friday’s meeting of Northern Ireland and Wales was a guess and 1,000 or so more were in attendance. The format of games largely played on weekday evenings was also unattractive. The schedule of games was criticised by Gary Speed, the Wales manager, who was annoyed that his team had to play Northern Ireland only two days after losing to Scotland, while the Scots had four days to prepare for their match with the Republic.
Other formats have been suggested, the most attractive being a schedule of two games back to back on a Saturday, with the two losers meeting each other on Sunday, immediately before the winners play off for the title. This would allow for all-inclusive weekend tickets to be sold and for an easily understood schedule.
However, there are concerns about security when supporters from Northern Ireland and the Republic are present at the same time and it seems unlikely that there will be much support for a quick-fire tournament on that basis, even if staged on this side of the Irish Sea.
Another factor contributing to the paucity of paying customers was surely the fact that the games were all screened live by Sky Sports and could be seen for nothing at pubs only a few hundred yards away from the stadium. However, the sight of a venue with vast swathes of empty seats did not make the tournament an alluring spectacle for broadcasters.
As for the value of the games to the coaches involved, Nigel Worthington saw his Northern Ireland side finish without a single point and with 10 goals conceded for none scored. Wales, too, were so blighted with call-offs that it was difficult to make any estimate of their progress under Speed, although he did record his first win as manager against Northern Ireland.
Giovanni Trapattoni vented his anger publicly, as did Robbie Keane – who took his international goals tally to 49 with the winner against Scotland – about players like Anthony Stokes and James McCarthy, who pulled out of his squad amid questions about their commitment. The Republic, at least, emerged as winners of the tournament and presumably with a boost to their confidence ahead of their Euro 2012 qualifier against Macedonia in Skopje.
Craig Levein certainly got a decent level of commitment from his Scottish squad and he can meditate on some positives before the Scots’ next outing, a friendly at home to Denmark in August. “The biggest frustration when you’re trying to build a squad is the lack of time you can spend together,” the Scotland manager said.
“From that point of view we’ve had two weeks to get to know one another better this year, in La Manga and again in Ireland, and we can see signs of the players bonding well and getting used to a style of play which we hope will serve us well when our Euro qualifiers start again in the autumn.”
Although Levein suggested publicly that Scotland would not have been unworthy of a win against the Republic on the basis of their second-half performance, he was concerned that his players fell behind in the first half of each of their games in Dublin – from needless errors in both cases.
The Scots simply must eliminate this tendency in their back to back Euro 2012 matches against the Czech Republic and Lithuania at Hampden Park at the start of September and follow up with a win in Liechtenstein before they travel to Alicante for the game that will almost certainly decide their qualifying destiny against the world champions and a team which can call upon several of the Barcelona players who demonstrated their capacity for lethal artistry at Wembley on Saturday night.
cost benefit analysis, public apathy, craig levein, scotland on sunday, weekday evenings, crowd size ebook download, millennium stadium, telegraph sport, photo action, thorny problem, action images, nations cup, club football, spee, carling, republic of ireland, meagre, aviva, football association, northern ireland