Sunday 17 December 2017

Correspondence between FAI and The Irish Independent

Peter Sherrard , the FAI's Director of Communications.
Peter Sherrard , the FAI's Director of Communications.

The Irish Independent received correspondence from Peter Sherrard, the FAI’s Director of Communications , yesterday regarding aspects of our coverage of recent events. Here were produce - and address - the points he raises in full.

Dear Sirs

We refer to a number of articles published in your newspaper between May 13 and May 19 written by Daniel McDonnell pertaining to the FAI.

For the record, the FAI wish to point out our ever-increasing concern regarding the one-sided journalistic approach taken by Daniel McDonnell in relation to our Association, particularly in recent days. It is clear to us that Daniel McDonnell has been engaging in an ongoing campaign against the FAI without full knowledge of the facts behind many of the comments and stories he has written. As you are no doubt aware this flies in the face of the Code of Practice for Newspapers, in particular Principle 1 'Truth and Accuracy' and Principle 2 'Distinguishing Fact and Comment'.

His articles are clearly indicative of someone who fails to check his facts, fails to correctly read or check FAI statements and generally presents comment from third parties without checking the claims made by his sources. We specifically point out the following examples;

Article Friday, May 14

'FAI 'No' to Barca'

In paragraph six he states;

'It also emerged that the FAI have been in ongoing negotiations with Barcelona about a friendly game since April, although they deny it is a factor in the Limerick Verdict'

FAI responds:

An FAI statement was released on Thursday, May 13, clearly setting out the reasons surrounding the decision by the FAI not to grant authorisation to Limerick FC for the proposed fixture.

One of the reasons set out related to ongoing negotiations by the FAI with FC Barcelona. Despite this fact, Daniel McDonnell ignores it and proceeded to suggest an FAI denial of something we already had on record.

Daniel McDonnell responds:

Certainly, there is something to clear up here. The intention was to stress that the negotiations with Barcelona are not the main factor, rather than suggesting that the FAI intended to say they weren't 'a factor' at all.

When asked directly over the weekend about the reason the game wasn't going ahead, FAI CEO John Delaney firstly cited the third party commercial agreement, and this was the main reason offered by Peter Sherrard when contacted on Thursday evening when the story first broke. The negotiations with Barcelona were stressed as a secondary concern.

So, we are happy to clarify the fact that the FAI were in competition with one of their financially strapped clubs for a glamour friendly with Barcelona, and this is one of the reasons why they refused to sanction the Limerick game. It is important this is kept on the record.

Article Saturday, May 15

'Limerick not giving up on Barca date'

In paragraph four of his article on Saturday, Daniel McDonnell further promulgates the position that Limerick FC were not advised by the FAI of the reasons for the refusal of permission for this fixture. He states;

'As of last night, the only official explanation they have received from the FAI is the email which states that the game cannot go ahead because it clashes with League of Ireland fixtures.'

FAI responds:

Again his reporting is incorrect as the FAI statement released on Thursday, May 13, clearly outlines the FAI position. Furthermore, he never contacted the FAI for comment in relation to this claim from Limerick FC. If he had, he would have been advised that Limerick FC were in receipt of other correspondence confirming the reasons for the non- authorisation of the fixture.

Daniel McDonnell responds:

The paragraph in question related to official correspondence and asserted that the only formal statement Limerick FC had from the FAI -- to pass onto Barcelona, for example -- was an email from Airtricity League Director, Fran Gavin, stressing that the July 31 date was a problem because of a clash with league fixtures that day and the subsequent knock-on effect for the calendar.

It was only on Sunday morning that FAI CEO John Delaney, who refused to speak about the matter two days earlier, added that Head of League Marketing and Promotion Noel Mooney had travelled to Limerick on Thursday morning, although he later added that it was only part of a meeting to arrange a gathering in Dublin yesterday pertaining to general issues surrounding football in the Shannonside area. This information was not included in the FAI statement on Thursday evening.

The Irish Independent also contests that the statement released on Thursday, May 13, 'clearly' outlines the FAI position.

It notes the subsequent appearance by Mr Delaney on the 'Marian Finucane Show' on Sunday which threw up more questions; the statements from Peter Sherrard on Sunday evening and Monday morning related to the capacity referred to in the third party agreement; and then a further 10-point statement from the FAI later that evening, which surely wouldn't have been necessary if the statement on Thursday had cleared things up in a satisfactory manner.

Indeed, arguably the most worrying part of this episode, with respect to 'accuracy' is that Mr Sherrard briefed journalists erroneous details about the capacity limit in the third party commercial agreement.

The figure of 20,000 was reported in a number of outlets, before the subsequent clarification to a figure of 15,000 which was extremely significant in the context of a venue the size of Thomond Park.

Article Monday, May 17

' Same old raw deal for the clubs as FAI look after No. 1'

In paragraph nine of this article he states;

'The fact that this year's summer training camp is taking place in Malahide? Money.'

FAI responds:

The FAI has already stated on the record that the decision to stay in Malahide this year was not a financial decision as we were already offered accommodation free of charge for the squad in two southern European destinations. Again Daniel McDonnell is making insinuations regarding decisions made by the FAI without reference to the FAI stated position on this matter.

Daniel McDonnell responds:

Giovanni Trapattoni made it perfectly clear in March that his preference for this summer would be a 'warm' weather training camp similar to the opening gathering in the Algarve two years ago. He mentioned Corsica or Sardinia as possible venues but, after the friendly match with Brazil in London in March, indicated that it was standard practice for the Association to be invited by a third party -- such as the Oceanico organised soiree in the Algarve two years ago.

The FAI statement above relates to free accommodation, but none of the other costs, such as flights and logistics, which would be associated with such a week-long trip abroad. If the FAI wish to clarify that they went against the stated preference of the international manager and organised a training camp in a location different to his 'on the record' ideal scenario for reasons nothing to do with money, then we are happy to put that statement out there and let the readers draw their own conclusions.

In the fifth last paragraph he states;

'Indeed, despite Delaney's denials, it was reported over the weekend that Bohs were told as much when they made a tentative enquiry to Abbotstown regarding the possibility of a game with Barca.'

FAI responds:

This is reported despite the fact the FAI had already made clear, on the record, that no request was made by Bohemian FC to the FAI in relation to a friendly with Barcelona FC and furthermore Bohemian FC has confirmed this.

Daniel McDonnell responds:

It is important to put the segment quoted above in context. The highlighted sentence was preceded by the line, "What Delaney is saying is that if another League of Ireland club goes out tomorrow, and has the initiative to agree a deal with Barcelona or Real Madrid or Manchester United for a game at a decent sized venue, they are wasting their time."

Nowhere is it suggested that Bohs were far enough down the line to make an official request to the FAI with respect to a friendly with Barcelona. They unofficially queried if it would be possible to arrange a game and they were told 'no way'. This was reported accurately by a rival publication. In other words, they would have been 'wasting their time'. It appears that the FAI are unable to draw the distinction between a 'tentative enquiry' and an 'official request'.

The statement from the FAI on Monday night said, "It was suggested in one newspaper that the FAI declined a request from Bohemian FC to play FC Barcelona. This is not true and the club have confirmed that."

We are unsure where this was suggested, but it certainly wasn't in the Irish Independent. Bohemian FC have no issue with what appeared in our newspaper.

Article Tuesday, May 18 'Standing Together'

Under the heading 'Spiralling' paragraph one, he states;

'And what if Bohs are drawn away for the second leg of a Champions League third-round qualifier, the biggest domestic football game in years, while the FAI are wining and dining at their grand opening in Dublin.'

FAI responds:

Daniel McDonnell has made a wide sweeping assumption unreflective of the facts around this qualifier. The FAI will be providing financial and logistical support to Bohemians (and any other club in European competition) during their European campaign and will be supported by FAI personnel at all stages during this competition.

His insinuation that all the FAI are doing is 'wining and dining' at the first match in the Stadium is far from fact.

We trust you will note this catalogue of one-sided reporting which gives your readers an unbalanced and poorly informed viewpoint.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Sherrard, Fai Director of Communications

Daniel McDonnell responds:

Nowhere is it stated that 'all' the FAI will be doing on August 4 will be wining and dining during the visit of Manchester United to the Aviva Stadium. However, after an extensive tour of the new venue last Friday, which included the facilities for VIP and invited guests, it appears safe to point out that these amenities will be utilised for the game in question. It would be a surprise if the FAI did not invite a selection of dignitaries to the first soccer match at their new home.

The provision of financial and logistical support to Bohemians is welcomed. Indeed, John Delaney said last Friday that he had engaged 'in preliminary discussions with UEFA' with a view to moving the Bohemians game if a clash occurred in Dublin. This was before he had spoken to Bohemian FC on the matter. On Monday, in a press briefing, Mr Sherrard said he wasn't aware that Mr Delaney had spoken to UEFA.

Either way, Bohemians manager Pat Fenlon has stated a preference to play the game on the designated date even if a clash arises. It is remarkable that the FAI are trying to put a positive spin on organising a match involving a global power on the week that Irish clubs could be representing the domestic game in the highest level of club competition -- either home or abroad -- and desperately need the exposure which accompanies such events.

The prospect of an embarrassing clash between the two events remains entirely possible.

Irish Independent

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