Ireland first to refuse entry to Barcelona
Barcelona last night denied FAI claims that the association was in active negotiations over a fixture.
In a statement released by Limerick with the backing of the world's most famous club, the FAI was accused of being the first national association to refuse Barcelona permission to play a friendly match.
As the official opening of the Aviva Stadium on Friday continued to be overshadowed by the controversy, Limerick FC's statement yesterday stepped up its war of words with the FAI.
"In the long and glorious history of FC Barcelona, the club has never been declined permission to play a friendly in any country it has visited," said a spokesperson for Limerick FC. "It is a shame that the FAI will now have the indignity of being the first national association to make this happen."
Limerick also contradicted claims made by the FAI on Thursday that the Association is in negotiations with Barcelona over a friendly game in Ireland for summer 2011.
"FC Barcelona did meet with a delegation from the FAI at Camp Nou last month in order to analyse the possibility of visiting Ireland during the summer of 2011," said the spokesperson. "However, no formal paperwork outlining plans for the proposed friendly have been received by FC Barcelona from the FAI, no proposed dates for the friendly have been discussed and no financial terms have been proposed by the FAI."
He added that the only negotiations that Barcelona have undertaken in Ireland this year are with Limerick and that "heads of agreement" have been reached by both parties for a game at Thomond Park on July 31.
The FAI have cited a clash with Airtricity League fixtures as one of the reasons for refusing to sanction the game, but there have previously been clashes between League of Ireland games and international fixtures.
The FAI also included the proximity of that Manchester United visit as a reason for not allowing the fixture to go ahead, despite stating that that they would talk to UEFA about rescheduling a Champions League game involving Bohemians if it coincided with the visit of Manchester United to the Aviva Stadium on August 4.
The involvement of a third-party commercial interest was also highlighted as a reason for not sanctioning the fixture.
The success of Real Madrid's visit to Dublin last summer as part of their pre-season has clearly caught the attention of other teams, as can be seen by the willingness of Barcelona to travel to Ireland.
Last year, Madrid trained at Carton House and played a friendly at Tallaght Stadium against Shamrock Rovers which was broadcast live on Sky Sports. Indeed, Madrid are understood to be keen on a return to Ireland this summer.
Should the Thomond Park game eventually get the green light, the visit of a superstar-laden Barcelona, including Lionel Messi, who many expect to confirm his status as the world's greatest player in South Africa this summer, would be a tremendous boost to football in the city and the wider south-western region.