Saints flirt with extinction as owner fumes over bonus row
ST PATRICK'S ATHLETIC were hours from facing extinction yesterday, with owner Garrett Kelleher prepared to pull the plug on his contribution to the club if players had gone ahead with a boycott of last night's Europa League tie with Karpaty Lviv.
A simmering row over bonuses escalated to crisis level yesterday morning when the Saints squad released a statement saying they wouldn't be playing the fixture.
The punishment for St Patrick's Athletic would have been a loss of €270,000 in UEFA prize money for reaching the third qualifying round, a €10,000 fine, and the €55,000 bill for the Ukrainian team's journey to Dublin -- plus the risk of further sanction.
That would have been the final straw for businessman Kelleher, who has pumped in the region of €10m into the club since taking over at the beginning of 2007.
As it transpired, as Kelleher looked on in Tallaght, Pat's lost last night's contest 3-1, going down 5-1 on aggregate.
The Pat's players were initially seeking an estimated total of €47,500 in bonus and appearance payments from the club -- €7,500 for beating an Icelandic team in the first round, €20,000 for eliminating Kazakh opponents in the second stage, and a further figure of €20,000 for appearing against Karpaty.
In addition, close to €7,000 was sought to compensate the seven Saints players with day jobs who had taken substantial time off work due to the travelling involved.
While there was no real issue over the work expenses, the Saints hierarchy were only willing to offer €17,500 in bonus payments.
They have taken in €400,000 from the European adventure, but half of that has been eaten up by travel and logistics; with the balance going towards the day-to-day running of affairs.
This week, the players reduced their bonus and appearance money demands to €37,500, but, with the parties at loggerheads, the FAI intervened to mediate at lunchtime yesterday as a doomsday scenario of a boycott of the game loomed over the horizon with Kelleher voicing his displeasure.
Meanwhile, a section of loyal Saints fans who are part of the club's Patron Scheme came forward to the club with an offer to help bridge the gap.
In the nick of time, the dispute was settled, with the players waiving the appearance fee and accepting an offer of €27,500 in bonus payments before the game -- plus the expenses for the seven individuals with day jobs.
However, the squad received a particularly mixed reaction from their supporters last night in Tallaght Stadium as they failed to overturn a two-goal deficit in Tallaght and exited European competition.