Galway 'shocked' by Premier expulsion
GALWAY United have been axed from the League of Ireland after failing to meet the licensing criteria.
In another blow to the reputation to the ailing league, the Tribesmen have been consigned to the 'A' Championship after more than three decades in the league, having failed to meet the financial standards as set down in the Clubs' Licensing manual, but are appealing the decision.
Galway were unable to get a tax clearance certificate in time for Sunday's deadline, while they had yet to settle with two footballing creditors who were owed back wages. The Terryland Park outfit have until Monday to lodge their appeal.
Galway paid one of the outstanding creditors yesterday, and expect to pay the other today. They are waiting on their tax clearance certificate but it had not arrived last night.
The club have been cutting costs to their already small budget during the close season, in which chief executive Nick Leeson stepped down and fans group Galway United Supporters Trust (GUST) became heavily involved in running the club.
They have reduced their tax bill significantly and the prospect of being demoted to the 'A' Championship has come as a shock.
"We're 34 years in the League," a Galway spokesman said. "We've been representing Galway city, the county of Galway and the west for that time and for us to drop out would be a disaster.
"We are expecting a positive decision from the Appeals Committee and look forward to continuing our tenure in the League of Ireland."
The appeal will be heard by an independent licensing committee, but any new documentation may not be accepted. Monaghan United will be the beneficiaries should Galway's appeal fail, having been promoted to the Premier Division yesterday. The club and its manager Mick Cooke both welcomed the news, but they face an anxious wait before they will know for sure that they are in.
Drogheda United will remain in the Premier Division to replace Sporting Fingal after being relegated last season. The club were taken over by fans' group The Claret and Blue Club and have raised more than €80,000 in shares during the closed season.
The Louth club had intended to be fully amateur in the second tier but, given the increase in potential sponsorship, they will meet with manager Bobby Browne in the coming days to discuss making some modest improvements to his squad.
Fourteen teams were awarded Premier Division licences, four of whom will take part in the First Division this season. The 12-team First Division only has 10 teams who qualify to take part in it at the current time. A successful Galway appeal would see it increased to 11, while Cobh Ramblers may also look to appeal after their application to return to the First Division was turned down.
Limerick have been given a provisional licence to play in the First Division on condition that they provide security around the financial commitments outlined in their budget as presented. They have until close of business on Thursday to do so.
The Shannonsiders are currently locked in mediation with the FAI in their dispute over their proposed, and then cancelled, friendly with Barcelona last season.
The news will come as yet another blow to the reputation of a league whose stock is at a real low. Last week saw Sporting Fingal go to the wall after seeing their investor pull out, before the prize money in the league was slashed by a massive €546,500.
Bohemians were involved in a dispute with their players, which was ultimately resolved allowing the club to be approved for its licence. Pat Fenlon will be working off a massively decreased budget and was yesterday trying to put pen to paper with new signings. Former Galway striker Anto Flood and ex-Manchester United trainee Chris Fagan are believed to be close to signing.
The pressure for the club to be ready for next Monday's Setanta Cup kick-off has been relieved after a clash of fixtures for Portadown saw it postponed. Fenlon had warned that he may not have had a team together, but the extra time will allow the club to prepare.
The FAI and clubs will be hoping that the beleaguered league can make it through the next 17 days before the league kicks off without any more bad news, but with Galway's appeal to come there is potential for more controversy.