Friday 23 March 2018

Athlone's financial woes worsen

25 September 2015; Athlone Town manager Alan Mathews. Pihoto: Matt Browne / Sportsfile
25 September 2015; Athlone Town manager Alan Mathews. Pihoto: Matt Browne / Sportsfile

John Fallon

Athlone Town have become the latest League of Ireland club to encounter financial difficulties, with manager Alan Mathews outlining some of the issues facing the First Division club.

Monetary strife has become the norm for the oldest club in the league in recent times. A public meeting was held last year seeking local investment, but the latest revelations paint a grim picture about their long-term viability.

Mathews admitted that an unsavoury spat which occurred following their defeat at Drogheda United last Friday stemmed from "broken promises" given to a former member of the Athlone Town staff.

The person involved in the exchange with the Athlone Town chairman is now working with Drogheda United.

The present Athlone squad and staff are seemingly not immune from the cashflow issues, either, and the manager expressed his hope that any outstanding matters would be resolved this week, despite some of the players earning just "€20 or €30 per week".

Most damning on the midlands outfit, however, are the details emerging for the cause of their abandoned first home league fixture against Shelbourne on March 11.

Shelbourne had travelled to the venue only to discover the match was called off due to an issue with the floodlights.

According to Mathews, unpaid ESB bills forced the club into using a generator which malfunctioned as kick-off loomed.

"I've been at the club a year now and it's been a tough 12 months," Mathews told Shannonside FM.

"The incident on Friday after our match against Drogheda match was most disappointing. It was a classic case of washing your dirty linen in public - an extremely ugly exchange.

"There are legacy issues from last year. Some commitments were made during the off-season for payments before now, but they haven't been fulfilled.

"For the matter to degenerate into an open shouting match in front of 30 people, including young kids, was very disappointing."

When contacted last night, the Players Football Association of Ireland (PFAI)secretary Stephen McGuinness said that, while he was unaware of any present issues, he insisted the club would be considered amateur by the Union due to the minority number of professional players on their books.

Salary arrears accumulated during last season due to their professionals were discharged in full during February - just in time for Athlone to be granted a licence to participate in this year's League of Ireland.

These latest developments arise fresh from news of Waterford United's financial woes.

Another club with a huge tradition, it has failed to translate into interest from the local Waterford public.

Just a week after hosting a public meeting pleading for support, the Blues attracted a paltry 268 fans to the RSC for Friday's win over UCD.

The First Division's image for being the graveyard of Irish football hasn't been helped by a litany of blemishes this season.

Shelbourne were called upon by the FAI last month to explain why there was no doctor inside Tolka Park to attend a Bohemians players requiring urgent medical attention during an EA Sports tie.

The poor standard of the playing surface at several venues has also come in for severe criticism.

The FAI did not respond when contacted last night for a comment on the situation in Athlone.

Irish Independent

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