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FAI facing a club revolt

LEAGUE of Ireland clubs are close to open revolt following the FAI’S pointblank refusal to sanction Limerick FC’s money-spinning friendly against Barcelona at Thomond Park.

A request from Athlone Town to play Real Madrid in July is likely to land in the FAI’s lap in the next few days.

Abbotstown will come under even more scrutiny as a result of Pat Fenlon’s assertion that Bohemians will plough ahead with a Champions League qualifier on the same day as the FAI’s glamour friendly against Manchester United at Lansdowne Road on August 4.

“We won’t be moving any game. If we get through, we’ll be playing on the night we’re designated to play. It’s as simple as that,” said Fenlon.

When asked whether there has been any consultation with clubs about the issue of friendly games, the FAI issued the following statement.

“No. Under the participation agreement which all clubs signed, no club can arrange any match without the prior consent of the Airtricity League Director. The clubs were reminded of this in writing in May last year.

“Since the sponsorship revenues from the League do not come close to covering the €5m p.a. it costs the FAI to run it, revenues from international matches and club friendly games (e.g. Airticity League XI v Manchester United) are used by the FAI to fund it.”

The FAI also confirmed today that League clubs were not made aware of the “third party agreement” which precludes the FAI from allowing friendlies above a certain capacity to take place.

Yesterday on the Marian Finucane Show, CEO John Delaney said: “We have signed an agreement with an agency who bring games into Ireland on our behalf and that restricts our ability to grant friendlies of a certain capacity. We are legally restricted.

“The game is not going to go ahead. I would love it to go ahead, but it will not be going ahead,” he said. “If we want to bring Manchester United in, or another club want to do so, they’ve got to ask for our permission. We wrote to the clubs a year ago to say ‘if you’re bringing in games, ask us first’.”

Asked directly whether it was about money, Delaney said: “It ultimately comes down to that.”