Tuesday 23 October 2018

PFAI and FAI must kick blame game to touch

Gary Shaw beats Waterford goalkeeper Matthew Connor with a diving header to score the winner for Shamrock Rovers at the RSC. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Gary Shaw beats Waterford goalkeeper Matthew Connor with a diving header to score the winner for Shamrock Rovers at the RSC. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

There is a scene in the black comedy film 'War of the Roses', when the husband in a once-blissful marriage, now hurtling towards spiteful divorce, is attempting to spoil a dinner party his wife is hosting at home for work clients.

It is fair to say Michael Douglas succeeds indeed in upsetting Kathleen Turner, particularly when he unzips his trousers to relieve himself on a simmering saucepan of seafood stew.

"A family tiff seems to be developing," reports an anxious guest after witnessing the episode.

"I don't know if we should leave, but I definitely advise skipping the fish course."

Perhaps this is not the most appropriate moment to remind ourselves that the PFAI and FAI share a canteen in their Abbotstown HQ.

Not that relations between this suspicious couple have sunk quite so low - yet - but neither can they be described as a charming couple of honeymooners who, coincidentally, this year celebrated 10 years of cohabitation.

St Patrick's Athletic manager Liam Buckley. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
St Patrick's Athletic manager Liam Buckley. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Theirs is anything but a happy marriage.

Though both reside beneath the same roof, they very much appear to live as far apart as possible given the extraordinary difficulties which seem to exist whenever an attempt is made to conduct even the most basic levels of communication with one another.

Instead of harmony, suspicion lurks within the office walls.

When a relationship breaks down, the first casualty is trust. It is fair comment to adjudge relations between PFAI and FAI are not brimful with goodwill.

Already the casualties are mounting and the long-lasting damage - we can all assume it will be long-lasting because it has already lasted so long - could have catastrophic consequences for the sport whose best interests both purport to represent.

For sure, the PFAI and FAI are at war and the volley of verbiage that has erupted between the supposedly complementary associations does not bode well for anyone involved in the domestic game.

"The leadership of the PFAI and their behaviour left a lot to be desired," was the latest verbal volley from Fran Gavin, the FAI's director of competitions, on Friday, as the Bray and Limerick rows rumble on.

"It did not help the situation. I'm personally disappointed with how they reacted.

"We're there to solve the problem and that's what needs to be done, not create a media circus. The advice that the players and the PFAI are getting was unfortunate in this situation."

Stephen McGuinness, PFAI chief, then unloaded both barrels, slamming the FAI's stance as a "blatant and juvenile attempt to deflect away from the FAI's own mismanagement of the situation".

"The FAI should focus their attention on ensuring such issues do not arise in our league again," he added.

Instead of playing the same blame game, the PFAI and FAI should be working together, not apart.

The chaos at Bray and the financial difficulties at Limerick - history informs that sooner rather than later another club will slide into the same morass - are not self-contained.

"The one aspect of the whole issue that really frustrates me with this business is that, at the start of the season, some clubs are in the market for some of the same players we are but then others end up out-bidding us on a few occasions," said St Patrick's Athletic manager, Liam Buckley. "And I'm sure we're not the only one."

Punished

Hence, clubs who obey the rules are themselves also being punished for doing the right thing. So what is to stop them breaking the rules, too?

"Two wrongs don't make a right," argued Buckley. "We run a tight ship and I'm sure others do too.

"I hate the publicity this is all causing because there are so many good people putting in effort and time and that remains unseen.

"The under-age structures that have been introduced will work. Players are already starting to come through and it's only in place a wet day.

"The problems with Bray and Limerick are not reflective of the whole structure. But the issues that have re-occurred this season need to cease and have to be addressed," Buckley added.

While the FAI rightly deserves flak, the PFAI has not been immune to censure either, with Limerick FC officials and ex-Bray boss Martin Russell criticising their heavy-handedness.

Financial problems will always exist in the league.

Even though the FAI and PFAI live in separate rooms, it would help if they could establish some level of reasonable communication.

For the sake of the kids, at least.

Irish Independent

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