Cliftonville legend Marty Quinn has hit out at the Irish League’s “crazy” transfer market and argued that the game’s big wages and offers for players cannot be justified.
Glentoran smashed the Irish League transfer record when they brought Shay McCartan to The Oval from Ballymena United for a fee around £120,000 and now Portadown say they want £100,000 for their captain and striker, Lee Bonis.
The Irish League can offer attractive wages and signing-on fees for some players but the astonishing McCartan deal has encouraged clubs to demand huge sums for their most wanted performers.
With the Glens and Larne now backed by wealthy owners, Ali Pour and Kenny Bruce, the Irish League’s financial landscape has been transformed.
Quinn, who guided the Reds to the league championship in 1998, says he has concerns the injection of cash could damage the game.
“The pressures and the demands to get silverware and qualify for Europe are the drivers,” he said. “When you see players moving for over £100,000 and players getting up to £1,500 a week it’s hard to believe it’s the same game we were involved in.
“It’s crazy money and it’s unjustifiable in my opinion. The revenue isn’t there through gate receipts to sustain that and you worry about the long-term future of the game.
“What happens when someone isn’t happy with their toy and throws it out of the pram in the future. It happens on a regular basis in the League of Ireland and the clubs struggle, like Waterford.
“It has to be carefully monitored so clubs don’t go crazy and give out more than they are taking in. It’s like domestic housekeeping, you need to live within your means.”
Linfield’s Head of Youth, Glenn Ferguson, who held the previous Irish league transfer record of £55,000 when he moved from Glenavon to Linfield in 1998, said: “Lee Bonis has played 55 league games and scored 17 goals and they are talking £100,000 for him. The money is just ridiculous.
“Some of the players are unproven. At least Shay McCartan was an international player who has played in England. He’s a good player, but for other players clubs will ask for a high fee because they believe they can get it.
“That’s the way of the world now. It puts huge pressure on the young players, there’s a lot expected of them when they cost that much.”