TOM COUGHLAN resigned as chairman of Cork City yesterday but the FAI have delivered a strong hint that the troubled club's only chance of avoiding relegation is if the controversial owner stands aside immediately and allows an interested consortium to take control.
While Coughlan, speaking on radio last night, suggested that he was about to do so once an audit is completed, authorities at Abbotstown remain unconvinced until they are officially notified.
City are to clear their substantial debts to creditors by the close of business today if they are to secure a Premier Division Licence for 2010.
However, it's understood that the FAI could be willing to facilitate an extension -- citing a precedent involving Athlone Town -- if new authorities assumed power at Turner's Cross. While today is the deadline for settling bills, the awarding of licences does not take place until February 15.
Coughlan has been in talks with a consortium that includes financial group Quintas and businessman Michael O'Connell, which also has the backing of supporters body FORAS, about a takeover.
Yesterday, an online statement released by Cork City announced that Coughlan was willing to resign his chairman duties: "The club will shortly appoint an interim chairman to oversee the proposed takeover of the club and ensure the strategic development of the club for the 2010 season, and into the future," it said.
However, that gesture was met cynically by the FAI, who are desperate for a change of regime at a club which has consistently delivered embarrassment to the League of Ireland over the last 12 months.
"Rather than talking of stepping down as chairman, Mr Coughlan should immediately relinquish ownership of the club and allow in the parties who have expressed an interest in taking Cork City forward," an FAI statement read.
"These parties made their interest clear to Mr Coughlan many months ago, yet nothing has happened. Gestures at the 11th hour when it could be too late to rectify next season are too little, too late."
Coughlan hit out at the administration of the FAI last night in a defence of his tenure. "I've done my absolute best," he said. "My ethos is the need for sport in these difficult times ... but maybe I'm not talented enough to get that message across.
"My biggest disappointment would be the lack of genuine conviction among certain elements of the executive of the FAI to promote proper quality football in Ireland."
League of Ireland Director Fran Gavin responded by encouraging Coughlan to move on. "It's only fair for the fans of Cork City who've been put through a lot of issues they don't deserve," he said.