Gavan Reilly's Portfolio writings, ramblings, mumblings

Published on
13 April, 2010

Published in
The University Observer

Comments Off

C&C Officer Review: Paddy-whackery

Paddy Ryan is the first to admit that his year as Campaigns & Communications Officer has been far from perfect. “I suppose taking up the job and the whole transition into the first semester was bumpy,” concedes the Tipperary native. “Everyone perceives the job they’re taking up to be different to what it’s going to be.”

Ryan’s year has indeed been a bumpy one. Though the second semester brought better fortunes for him – assisted by the shift of criticism from himself to his colleague, Education VP Donnacha Ó Súilleabháin – the first term brought more criticism than any individual sabbatical officer had been subjected to for years. Ryan acknowledges that his year began bumpily, and debits this to his self-professed different approach to campaigning.

Instead of the traditional week-long campaigns, Ryan “initially wanted to have continuous campaigns: I tried to figure out how to do it. It just didn’t work for me. I think the first few campaigns suffered as a result… I had so much planned – so many ideas and things I wanted to do. I was being over-eager and over-ambitious. I said I’d go hell for leather at this. I tried it all and it didn’t work.”

Unsurprisingly, Ryan cites the backlash against him a result as the low point of his year – but curiously, also sees the criticism as the high point too. “It’s when you’re at your lowest that you find out who your friends are. When everyone starts rallying around you and tell you, ‘no, come on, you can do this, we believe in you’ it’s both a high and low point.”

It is unfortunately telling that Ryan doesn’t cite any particular campaigning victory as the climax of his year; major achievements like recruiting a record number of class reps or the successful resistance to third-level fees have, realistically, had little to do with his input, being largely built on the work of SU President Gary Redmond. The flipside of this, though, is that Ryan cannot take much blame for some of the year’s failures, such as the introduction of charges in the Student Health Service – again, because the dominant style of Redmond’s hands-on leadership has sidelined him.

Once he reverted to the weekly campaign model Ryan’s year was solid, but unremarkable. He may have gotten unlucky with the reception to his plan for year-long campaigns rather than concentrated weekly ones, but the fact that the surviving campaign weeks had only a limited impact means that overall verdict of Ryan’s year must be that the Engineering student – in both his approach to the job and his decision to seek it in the first place – bit off more than he could chew.

Thankfully for his own sake, Ryan sees his tenure as a positive experience. “It brought me to the reality that life is a lot harsher than you think it is, but I’ve learnt a lot and I’ve matured a bit. I’ve had great craic. If I was in the same position I’d definitely run again. Will I run again? No.”


Published on
9 April, 2010

Published in
The University Observer

Comments Off

UO Sports Podcast: April 9th, 2010

Another week, another 60+ minutes of funny, quirky, divisive and off-the-wall sports talk from the Observer team.

It’s a bumper show this week with six in the studio, as Killian Woods, Richard Chambers and Paul Fennessy join Gavan Reilly to talk about UCD’s two successive 0-0 draws in the Airtricity League and the fortunes of the American Football Club – as well as Manchester United’s horror week in the Premier League and Champions Leagues, Tiger Woods’ return at the US Masters and the weekend’s Heineken Cup action and the Aintree Grand National. Bridget Fitzsimons and Catriona Laverty also drop by to keep us updated on their fortunes in the topsy-turvy world of Fantasy Premier League. All this plus Fenno’s Preddos, Killian’s Disgusting Team of the Week and more!

The Observer Sports Show is produced and presented by Gavan Reilly.

Click here to listen to the show, or click here to subscribe to the UO Sports Podcast in iTunes. Leave your comments in the field below, or send them to our Twitter!


Published on
31 March, 2010

Published in
The University Observer

Comments Off

UO Sports Podcast: March 31st, 2010

Another week, another hour of top-notch sporting analysis and insight from the sports crew of Ireland’s award-winning student newspaper.

Killian Woods, Paul Fennessy and Richard Chambers chat about the absence of Wayne Rooney, the chances of United’s Champions League, UCD’s recent triumph over Bray Wanderers, Argentina’s entry into the Tri Nations Tournament, the continuing controversy over Caster Semenya and the mixed fortunes of the Formula 1 season.

The Observer sports show is hosted and produced by Gavan Reilly.

Click this link to listen to the podcast… UO Sports Podcast: March 31st, 2010 …or click here to subscribe to the Observer sports show in iTunes.

(Apologies for the scratchy audio quality this week – the environs were quite loud with the UCD Musical Society production of Glee in the adjacent theatre!)

Leave your comments in the field below, or send them to our Twitter!


Published on
30 March, 2010

Published in
The University Observer

Comments Off

UCD’s Redmond elected President of USI

In the last few moments, UCD Students’ Union President has been elected next year’s President of the Union of Students in Ireland.

In a tightly-fought election this lunchtime which was sent to three recounts, Redmond defeated current USI Equality Officer Kelly by 109 votes to 107, with three votes to re-open nominations.

Redmond’s election marks the first time since 1994 that a UCD student will have been the leader of the national student movement.

Redmond said he was “delighted with the result and with the support I’ve received up and down the country. There is a huge will among the students of Ireland to engage with national student issues and to fight for a better deal for students. I can feel momentum building around issues like the maintenance grant, the registration fee and higher education funding, and I want to harness that momentum to push the student agenda to the fore of the country’s affairs.”

“It’s a vital time for education in Ireland,” he added. “We need more investment and more supports for students to produce top-quality graduates, who will help drive the knowledge-based economy we aim to build. If Ireland is serious about meeting our targets under the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education, and promoting lifelong learning, now is the time to invest in education.”

President of Trinity College Dublin SU, Cónán O Bróin, was elected Deputy President, while UCCSU’s Welfare Officer Rebecca Murphy was elected to the national equivalent post.

In the elections to the LGBT Officer and Equality Officer positions, all running candidates were defeated with the Re-Open Nominations option being elected in both cases.


Published on
23 March, 2010

Published in
The University Observer

Comments Off

UO Sports Podcast: March 23rd, 2010

After last week’s radio mega-marathon, the Observer sports team return with another hour of incisive sports news, views, opinion, analysis and fun.

Join Killian Woods, Paul Fennessy, Bridget Fitzsimons and Catriona Laverty as they cast a watchful eye over the final weekend of the 2010 Six Nations Championship and the ongoing race for the Premier League, and hear how Catriona’s at a loose end now that her Fantasy Six Nations adventures have come to an end for another year!

The Observer sports show is hosted and produced by Gavan Reilly.

Click the link below to listen to the podcast…

UO Sports Podcast: March 23rd, 2010

…or click here to subscribe to the Observer sports show in iTunes.


Published on
8 March, 2010

Published in
Back Page Football

Comments Off

Opinion: Can a fans’ trust work?

In a long overdue return to BPF, Gav Reilly ponders whether the Red Knights model of ownership can really work in England…

As a Manchester United fan it’s been difficult of late to read any kind of club news without encountering inevitable bumf about the Glazers, the Red Knights, green and gold scarves, potential boycotts, Wayne Rooney’s forehead, blah blah blah… the list goes on. (OK, I realise that last one isn’t that terrible, but it’s been the saving grace of late.)

When the Glazer family launched their formal takeover bid of Manchester United in the summer of 2005, I was probably in the small minority (or, if in the majority, the silent one – but then again, it’s always been difficult to publicly express one’s support for a status quo) who thought the takeover might not have been a terrible thing. As a Commerce student at the time, I was being heavily briefed on investment practices and, in my business-y frame of mind, and figured that although the transition would mean United (then debt-free) being loaded up with a roundabout £500m in debt – small change, you know yourself… – that nobody would put a business through such a financial mill if they didn’t think the business could adequately cope with the strain.

In hindsight I still stand by that logic. Nobody – not even an Irish banker intent on spending billions on a floundering Irish bank – puts money into an enterprise if they don’t think they’ll be able to get their investment back, with more. After all, that’s what profit is: the reward for taking a risk.

That’s not to say I didn’t understand and share the fears that MUST and the soon-to-be F.C. United brigade. The club was debt-free and had built its modern empire – a top-class stadium; an era of incomparable dominance in English football, the ability to confidently and consistently break transfer records to get the players we needed, and others we didn’t – upon the fact that its monetary situation was so resilient and dependable. Good investment and solid management breeds more money, which if managed correctly keeps the cycle going.

The problem with that logic was that I’d forgotten one pretty simple thing: in offloading all the debt the Glazers were getting themselves into onto the club, the Glazers were almost entirely nullifying the burden they were undertaking. Profit is the reward for risk, but the Glazer family weren’t taking much of a risk if they were making the club shoulder the risk for their actions. Still, I reasoned, they’re going to be looking at a long-term investment: the Glazers aren’t going to milk the club for everything they can. Milking the club would desperately impact on its ability to go about its affairs – or, at least, in the way the club had been used to.

Besides, in class we were being taught that when you’re looking to set up or run a business, you have two options on how to fund it: through debt – i.e. borrowing the money from a benefactor or bank – or equity, i.e. trying to get an investor to put money into the business in the hope that their money can turn a profit (the reward for risk – geddit?). Debt, we were taught, is cheaper. If you borrow money from the bank, you pay 5% or so in interest per year, and that’s it done. With equity, if you turn a profit, the shareholders deserve a payout, usually in the order of 10-12%. So if you’re looking for £500m, it’s cheaper to have to pay 4% interest – £20m a year – than £60m to the people who helped you get off the ground. Again, though, either way it’s dearer than paying nothing at all.

But on they came, and milk the club they did. It’s one thing to have a family-run business that’s been forged over time and works as the family breadbasket, but it’s another thing entirely to take over a business as a family consortium and bleed the thing try. And now, the club finds itself with a huge debt it’s struggling to handle.

Which leads me back to the recent news that a group of City investors – all United fans – are planning a buyout of the club with the ultimate intent of converting it into a fans’ trust ownership model, the likes of which are seen in most major Spanish clubs.

Like most fans, I won’t lie and pretend a fans’ ownership model wouldn’t be a fantastic thing to be able to put into practice. United have blazed the trail in many ways in footballing history and putting the most honourable of ownership models into practice would be the icing on the cake. And how better to run the clubs than with those who keep it going in mind at the helm?

Still, though, there are problems. Firstly: how’s this takeover going to be paid for? The Glazers are a profiteering bunch. They’ve put a shedload of money into the business and they’re going to want it back – even if it means having to pay them the money they don’t even themselves now owe. The Glazers borrowed about £600m to buy the club, and even though they’ve siphoned off millions and millions for themselves and owe nothing, they’re going to want a significant amount more than that in a payoff. Let’s say it’s £700m. Then, the investors will need to get rid of the club’s debt. Another £700m. Very quickly you’re looking at a bill of £1.4bn (billion! That’s the price of 18 Cristiano Ronaldos!) simply to take the club over, before you even encounter the costs of running the club itself. And in the current climate, you’re going to need £1.4bn in cold, hard, cash. With a club in United’s state there’s no room for a bond issue or a protracted house-of-cards approach to finding money.

Secondly, who’s going to actually run the club when it’s all done? Are we going to have the Joan Laportas or the Fiorentino Perezes of this world coming to Europe? Is the fat bloke in the Stretford End who leads the chants going to be elected Club President, promising to buy David Villa, Fernando Torres, Thierry Henry, Lionel Messi and Kaka the next time the transfer window opens? A supporter-run club of United’s size is inevitably going to lead to a race to the top just like it’s seen in Spain, but there’s nobody in the world who’s going to buy a club and get it out of debt just so a supporters’ trust can lead the club into hypercompetition with itself and grow itself another Real Madrid-sized financial tumour.

Spain has shown us that a fan-run club only has limited appeal. Perhaps the most successful model is Bayern Munich where the ownership is only partially held by the fans, but even this model wouldn’t work in a club of United’s financial scale. Let’s say the Red Knights own 50% of the club and the fans 50%. If the Knights propose something unpopular, and every single fan thinks it abhorrent (how likely?), all the Red Knights need to do is to get an ally to pretend they’re a fan, join the trust and force their way through. The fans’ say won’t be enough to stop the Knights doing what they want, and if they’re paying £1.4bn for that privilege they’re going to want to exert it.

The fan ownership model is a great one in theory – but show me a case where it’s worked effectively for a club of Manchester United’s size, and hasn’t gotten it into very, very tough financial times and I’ll show you a fan who might just about be convinced.

Either way, it’s certainly the lesser of two evils.


Published on
5 March, 2010

Published in
The University Observer

Comments Off

UCD students overturn Coke ban as Lynam wins Students’ Union presidency

STUDENTS in UCD have voted to overturn UCD Students’ Union’s boycott on the sale of Coca-Cola products in SU shops and bars.

[Read more →]


Published on
2 March, 2010

Published in
The University Observer

Comments Off

Election Special: President

Profile and analysis by Gavan Reilly [Read more →]


Published on
2 March, 2010

Published in
The University Observer

Comments Off

The young men dying to stay thin

Gavan Reilly investigates the rising number of males reporting eating disorders and finds an endemic problem that appears only to be getting worse [Read more →]


Published on
2 March, 2010

Published in
The University Observer

Comments Off

Anti-Coke campaign accuses SU of ‘stifling’ them

Campaigners on the ‘No’ side of this week’s referendum to overturn the ban on the sale of Coca-Cola products in Students’ Union shops have accused the Union of deliberately stifling debate on the subject. [Read more →]


← Before After →