Limerick and FAI in court over refusal to sanction Barca friendly
A delegation from Limerick FC left the High Court in good spirits yesterday after an independent arbitrator was appointed to hear their case against the FAI with respect to the association's refusal to sanction the club's friendly with Barcelona last summer.
The Shannonsiders remain unsatisfied with the chain of events which led to the Catalan giants being turned away, despite their willingness to come to Thomond Park for what would have been a lucrative friendly.
After initially citing fixture chaos, the FAI eventually informed Limerick the game could not go ahead because they had signed an agreement with a third party, subsequently revealed to be Endemol, which gave them the rights to any friendly game with a capacity in excess of 15,000.
Limerick were unsatisfied with the manner in which that was communicated, particularly when a figure of 20,000 was initially offered by an FAI spokesman.
The FAI argue that, under the terms of their Participation Agreement with all league clubs, they are entitled to make such commercial decisions. Yet the Munster side are querying the legality of such an arrangement under competition law.
Furthermore, they can now use the arbitration channels to press for the FAI to disclose when they signed the deal with Endemol.
Limerick have been trying to sit down with Abbotstown authorities to discuss the matter since the furore broke in July, but relations have been strained. The FAI eventually offered mediation, and there was negotiation between the respective legal teams at the High Court yesterday morning.
The parties went before Justice Mary Laffoy, who approved the appointment of Michael Collins SC -- who had been nominated by Limerick -- as the arbitrator.
Collins, a descendant of his famous namesake, delved into League of Ireland waters in 2006 in a dispute which surrounded Bohemians fielding a suspended Jason McGuinness in a game.
Limerick are being represented by Klaus Reichert, a Tralee man who is an expert in the area of international arbitration.
He was tight-lipped on what the club are looking for, but it's understood that they will stress the potential loss of revenue if friendly games at Thomond Park are out of the equation. Conceivably, they could seek damages.
The FAI released a statement regretting that, "money spent on this course of action will be lost to the sport. What is decided during the mediation process with Limerick FC could have broader ramifications for the funding and development of football at all levels."