Tuesday 6 December 2016

'Our game is in crisis' - St Pat's hit back yet again with second hard-hitting statement as row with FAI escalates

Published 06/08/2016 | 16:54

FAI Chief Executive John Delaney
FAI Chief Executive John Delaney

St Patrick's Athletic have moved swiftly to respond to an FAI statement which questioned the logic of the Inchicore club's decision not to accept a €5k grant from the Association.

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Following Derry City's decision on Thursday to refuse the money from the FAI, St Pat's yesterday released a hard-hitting statement insisting that "the FAI has utterly failed the domestic game" and that the club would not accept the €5k.

This prompted the Football Association of Ireland to release a statement of their own. The Association expressed their "extreme disappointment" with Pat's decision and claimed that the Saints were one of several clubs who were at a meeting last week between the Association and the Premier Clubs Association (PCA) and had "agreed to the process" of a €100k grant programme for strategic business planning be put in place for League of Ireland clubs.

"Frank Kinsella, of St Patrick's Athletic, was one of the three club representatives, along with barrister Michael Cush, who represented the Premier Clubs Association (PCA) - who represent all League clubs - at a meeting with the FAI in Clonmel on August 27," read the FAI statement.

"At that meeting, it was agreed that a €100,000 grant programme for strategic business planning be put in place for all League clubs, and that a statement would be agreed and released, following ultimate approval by the PCA."

However, Pat's have responded, claiming the FAI have attempted to "undermine the statement issued by this football club".

Pat's stated that their General Manager, Frank Kinsella, attended the meeting and brought the outcomes back to the board for consideration. The decision then lay with the board of St Patrick's Athletic, according to the club.

Pat's went on to criticise the FAI's leadership and transparency within the League of Ireland.

The Pat's statement also reiterates that the league "is in crisis" and there is a PR strategy to "try and create a public image that its senior executives are committed to change and to improvement".

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HERE IS THE FULL STATEMENT FROM ST PAT'S, ISSUED TODAY AT 4.23

The FAI last night attempted to undermine the statement issued by this football club by suggesting it was "extraordinary" that our General Manager had attended a meeting at which the Association's proposed grant to clubs was tabled and had not objected to it. There is nothing extraordinary about the actions of the club or its General Manager. As we said in our original statement last night, the club's most senior executive attended the meeting and brought the outcomes to the board of the club for its consideration. The board made its decision and in light of Derry City's announcement made that decision public.

The context for this is important. At a meeting of the Premier Clubs Association in 2015 a decision was made to engage with the FAI on a number of points.

The Board of St Patrick's Athletic agreed to continue to engage with the PCA as these points were common to most clubs and there was complete agreement. These were based around further clarity in areas such as transparency on revenue received by the FAI on behalf of the League from UEFA, FIFA, Sponsorship, Government, municipalities, etc.

The rationale deployed in deciding policy on TV coverage, match selection/timings/revenue etc. A breakdown of the annual running costs of the League and the basis for the league affiliation fees. Further clarity on income streams used by the FAI to support running the League - major sponsorship sums, Cup gates etc.

Finally it was agreed to look at participation agreement issues and the level of fines and the use of those fines.

Our game is in crisis. That is why the clubs established the PCA so that the Premier League clubs would consider their responsibilities and attempt to engage with the governing body with a view to effecting change. Ten months since we brought these issues forward nothing material has happened. We have made Association aware of the seriousness of the challenge facing the senior clubs - and the domestic game at all levels - but there has been no serious engagement. To demonstrate its commitment the PCA appointed Senior Counsel, Michael Cush, to lead its engagement with the FAI but, to date, his efforts have been largely rebuffed. It may appear strange in a week when two of our clubs brought such distinction to our domestic game to talk of the League being in crisis but that is by no means an exaggeration.

It is not the FAI's role alone to address the crisis. The responsibility for this lies with various stakeholders including the clubs. The board of St Patrick's Athletic is perfectly prepared to accept its part in this however all the senior clubs are beholden to the Association which has utterly failed to create a suitable environment in which a sustainable, commercially sound League which would nurture young talent and generate public support. It is ten years since the Association took control of the League of Ireland. In that time it has displayed nothing approaching leadership.

It is also not the case that addressing the needs of the PCA or indeed all 20 League clubs across the two Divisions is sufficient because, as senior clubs, we recognise that there is a need for an integrated approach where the game is developed from the ground level up and from top down at the same time and our schoolboys clubs have an enormous amount to contribute to this effort.

What prevails with the FAI is an approach whereby it decides everything and where it dictates policy with the occasional PR flurry to try and create a public image that its senior executives are committed to change and to improvement. This is the great irony of its primary criticism of last night's statement by the club. When our GM brought the FAI proposal to the board for review and it decided not to accept it and announced that decision, the FAI chooses to paint that as an "extraordinary" outcome. The GM behaved absolutely appropriately and if the FAI considers a process where an executive brings proposals to his board for discussion and decision as "extraordinary", then that is a reflection on the way in which the FAI conducts its business not on St Patrick's Athletic.

 

HERE IS THE FULL FAI STATEMENT (ISSUED AFTER ST PAT'S REVEALED THEY WOULD NOT ACCEPT €5K) ISSUED AT 2.42 TODAY

The Football Association of Ireland expressed its extreme disappointment with the decision by St Patrick's Athletic FC to reject a funding grant to assist with providing a future business plan for all SSE Airtricity League clubs.

The decision by the club to refuse the payment, which will help to roadmap a financially strategic and deep-rooted community structure, is all the more astonishing given that St Patrick's Athletic were one of the clubs who agreed to the process, in the first place.

Since the St Patrick's Athletic statement was released on Friday evening a host of leading clubs, including Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Cork City, Bohemian FC and Galway United - and many others, have come out to support a clear desire to continue to work in partnership with the FAI.

Frank Kinsella, of St Patrick's Athletic, was one of the three club representatives, along with barrister Michael Cush, who represented the Premier Clubs Association (PCA) - who represent all League clubs - at a meeting with the FAI in Clonmel on August 27.

At that meeting, it was agreed that a €100,000 grant programme for strategic business planning be put in place for all League clubs, and that a statement would be agreed and released, following ultimate approval by the PCA.

The PCA, with Frank Kinsella, had welcomed the process where clubs would be assisted financially, in the drawing up of clear business plans for the next five years, which would give a clear pathway for the future of the League.

At no point during this meeting did Frank Kinsella, as a representative of the PCA or St Patrick's Athletic, voice his disapproval to the plan, and was, in fact, enthusiastic about the process.

He, and the other representatives of the PCA, went on the record with the Association at the time and declared it welcomed "the announcement by the FAI, (and) that they will support the clubs in preparing five-year strategic plans by investing €100,000".

The PCA and Frank Kinsella also agreed "the significance of both the FAI and the clubs working together on the project shows that there is a positive way forward for both to work together in developing the League of Ireland to a new platform for the benefit not alone of the FAI and the clubs, but the players and fans who support our League".

The Association believes that St Patrick's Athletic's statement is extremely divisive and utterly dismissive towards smaller clubs: "The (St Patrick's Athletic) board is of the view that the Association's move and its timing was deliberately aimed at encouraging non Premier League clubs to stand with the current administrators of our League as the PCA set about its agenda to change".

The FAI's Director of Competitions, Fran Gavin, said that the statement by St Patrick's Athletic was "extremely confusing".

"This is quite extraordinary given that the club's representative was one of the architects in agreeing the funding initiative in the first place," said Gavin.

"At no point did Frank Kinsella speak on behalf of himself or his club to voice concerns or otherwise with the funding grant. Nor did he declare that he didn't want to be part of this latest development in what is an ongoing process.

"This is extremely confusing and is quite frustrating that St Patrick's Athletic have decided that parts of this process, which their representative agreed to, is now not for them.

"Many leading clubs have been in touch with me and have announced that they are extremely engaged in what we are all doing together."

Meetings between the FAI and the PCA regarding the future structure and direction of the League have been ongoing since the Consultation Process Report was launched on September 28, 2015.

The meetings have taken place in an atmosphere of partnership, trust, confidentiality and goodwill. One of the main areas highlights by the Report is the need for the clubs to develop a clear business plan.

St Patrick's Athletic's statement is a disappointing development, but the FAI will strive on and continue to work with the clubs who are committed to finding a successful future for the League.

The FAI has an extremely positive history in assisting and working with St Patrick's Athletic in recent times, including through development planning for proposed new facilities and through assistance in preparing Richmond Park for the hosting of UEFA Champions League and Europa League games, and across a broad range of areas.

The FAI fully expects St Patrick's Athletic to re-engage with the agreed process, and to remain in a united partnership with its fellow clubs.

The Board of the FAI will, in the coming week, write to each club outlining the process to date and the next steps forward for the future development of Irish domestic football.

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