Monday 9 December 2019

Gavin defends role of ruling body in Bray and Athlone cases

'The FAI does not sign players or take on investors for clubs'

Fran Gavin. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Fran Gavin. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Daviel McDonnell

League of Ireland director Fran Gavin says he is "satisfied" that Bray Wanderers will cause no problems this season.

And he says that Athlone Town are ready to move on after the departure of the mysterious overseas investors who arrived at the club ahead of a turbulent year dominated by match-fixing investigations.

But he does not believe that the FAI can take any responsibility for the problems that both clubs encountered last term.

Bray hit the financial rocks midway through 2017 after spending heavily last winter and there were fears the club would collapse before a solution was found to get them through the rest of the campaign - although the future appears to be tied up in plans to redevelop the local, council-owned Carlisle Grounds. The council do not support the plan.

Gavin says the fact the club received a Premier Division licence is positive, while stressing that process is independent of the FAI.

"We're satisfied that the club is ready to go," he said yesterday, speaking after confirming that an investigation into suspicious activity around a friendly with Waterford had been dropped.

"They've a good, strong squad, and we'll monitor them through the year and keep in touch with them as we did last year.

"People seem to forget that last year they did pay every penny to their players. Nobody was left short or anything like that. If they look back at the way it was handled, the club will probably have a different view on it this year. It's something we're watching very closely."

He added that Athlone had also come through the licensing process without any issues.

"The club has informed us that the (overseas) investors are over there," said Gavin, who added that legal reasons prevented him from commenting on the status of the ongoing appeal by Igor Labuts and Dragos Sfrijan into the year-long ban they received in September for breaching gambling rules.

Gavin broadly said that lessons have been learned but defended the FAI's part in the woes experienced by the problem pair.

"The clubs are responsible for running their own businesses," he said.

"The FAI does not sign players and the FAI does not take on investors for clubs."

He also stood by the decision to sign a sponsorship deal with TRACKCHAMP which facilitated streaming of games outside Ireland for gambling purposes.

"I think if you see in any league, the amount of clubs that are relying on sponsorship from betting companies. If it's done responsibly, I don't think there's a huge issue with it.

"How we manage it is something we need to look at it, how we educate players and clubs - it's important to do that."

Speaking at FAI HQ in Abbotstown, Gavin confirmed that Limerick owner Pat O'Sullivan is still looking for help running the club.

He also reported that the FAI had enjoyed positive meetings with Dundalk's US buyers.

Further still, he detailed a trip to the Brandywell last week to monitor the delayed ground development which has forced the Candystripes to fixture swap next Friday's opener against Sligo Rovers.

Gavin hopes the renovated venue will be ready for the visit of Dundalk on March 2.

The bigger picture for the league at the moment is the future governance, with Gavin confirming an Irish Independent report from November that talks between the FAI and the Premier Clubs Alliance (PCA) have led to exploring the possibility of setting up a new entity.

This would involve joint ownership between the FAI and clubs.

"Those meetings have been very positive. The feeling of clubs is that they'd like to have more say in what happens," stated Gavin, who was reluctant to lay out a timescale.

"We are probably listening a bit more to the clubs. The clubs have more ideas when they come in - they are more confident."

One of the ideas on the table is that the league would seek its own TV deal independent of the FAI's international football deals with broadcasters.

Gavin added that details of prizemoney for 2018 and title sponsor plans going forward would be announced at Monday's league launch.

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