Tuesday 17 September 2019

Interim examiner appointed by High Court to Limerick FC

A general view of Market's Field, home of Limerick FC
A general view of Market's Field, home of Limerick FC

Aodhan O Faolain and Ray Managh

The High Court has appointed an interim examiner to League of Ireland side Limerick FC.

The appointment was made after the court heard that an independent expert had stated that Munster Football Club Limited, which trades as Limerick FC, has a reasonable prospect of survival as a going concern if certain steps are taken.

These steps include the appointment of an examiner who would put together a scheme of arrangement with the club's creditors, and if fresh investment in the League of Ireland First Division side can be secured. 

The court heard that there has been four, including one formal. expressions of interest by potential investors in the club, which has debts of approximately €490,000.

A statement from the FAI this evening read: "The Football Association of Ireland notes the appointment of an interim examiner to Limerick FC in the High Court today.

"The FAI would like to point out that it does not owe money to Limerick FC who are currently in debt to the Association.

"The FAI are confident that Limerick FC will fulfil their remaining fixtures in the First Division this season. The Association notes expressions of interest in the future of the club from several parties and is open to discussions with any group to ensure the future of senior football in the city."

In seeking the protection of the court from its creditors the club said it is experiencing financial difficulties due to reasons including recent match-fixing allegations against certain of the club's players, payments of player's expenses.

The club cited its relegation in November 2018 from the League of Ireland's Premier Division as another reason why it has gotten into difficulty.

The club's relations with the FAI and the body that represents professional players in the league the PFAI were also strained, the court heard. 

In addition solidarity payments to the club from the Football Association of Ireland, and UEFA, which the club expected to receive at the start of the current season, have failed to materialise.

Other matters that impacted on the club include the threat of strike action by the club's players,  issues over the club's licence to play in the League of Ireland, its tenancy at the Market Field Stadium in Limerick where the team plays its home games, declining attendances and the failure to attract sponsorship due to negative publicity.

The court heard that in order to secure the club's future company director and club chairman Pat O Sullivan is willing to hand over control of the football club to a new investor to ensure the continuity of the club into the future.

At the High Court on Friday evening, Mr Justice Anthony Barr said while the company was insolvent he was satisfied from the independent accountant's report that insolvency practitioner Conor Noone of Baker Tilly chartered accountants should be appointed as interim examiner to the company. 

The examiner has up to 100 days to put together a scheme with the clubs creditors which if approved will allow the club to survive.

Seeking the appointment Gary McCarthy SC, instructed by solicitor Barry Lyons for Limerick FC  said the club plays an important role in the community in Limerick.

The club had two full-time professionals, a player and a manager, and 40 volunteers, who run the club which plays in the First Division of the League, as well as fielding teams in ladies and underage competitions.

It also operates several social initiatives such as the reclaim project, to help and provide opportunities to those in the Limerick area who have fallen out of mainstream education or employment. 

Counsel said that it was because of these type of initiatives the Gardai in Limerick, who are creditors of the club, are supporting the examinership application. 

There had also been four expressions of interest in the club from potential investors, counsel said, including one formal expression of interest.

Other creditors of the company include Limerick Institute of Technology, Revenue, Limerick City Hotel, Limerick Enterprise Developments Partnership which own the Markets Fields, 

Counsel said that the creditors would do better in an examinership, compared to if the company went into liquidation.

The FAI has said in a statement released tonight that they expect that troubled Limerick FC will fulfill their fixtures for the remainder of the League of Ireland First Division season.

And they denied claims that the Shannonsiders are waiting on solidarity payments from the FAI.

The FAI sent out a statement after noting 'the appointment of an interim examiner to Limerick FC in the High Court today.'

As part of the process, Limerick said they were waiting on money from their governing body and UEFA.

"The FAI would like to point out that it does not owe money to Limerick FC who are currently in debt to the Association," said the Abbotstown missive.

"The FAI are confident that Limerick FC will fulfil their remaining fixtures in the First Division this season.

"The Association notes expressions of interest in the future of the club from several parties and is open to discussions with any group to ensure the future of senior football in the city."

The application returns before the court next week.

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