Friday 15 December 2017

Tensions boil over as Pat’s slam FAI for ‘utter failure’

Alleged lack of transparency central to Saints' board grievances

Garrett Kelleher, owner of St Pat’s, was a key player in engaging Cush into the role as the clubs’ honest broker. Picture: Pat Murphy / Sportsfile
Garrett Kelleher, owner of St Pat’s, was a key player in engaging Cush into the role as the clubs’ honest broker. Picture: Pat Murphy / Sportsfile

John Fallon

There's no sign of a truce between some of the more outspoken League of Ireland clubs waging war on the FAI over the contentious issue of strategic planning funding.

Derry City and, more emphatically, St Patrick's Athletic in recent days ridiculed the gesture of providing a grant of up to €5,000 for devising a five-year charter but, moreover, the spat has erupted the fault lines previously kept under wraps during negotiations between the Premier Clubs Association (PCA) and the FAI over the Conroy Report.

While chief executive John Delaney last week outlined his frustration at the delays in implementing a report published last September, according to St Pat's at least, the roadblock is attributable to the FAI's failure in furnishing details of the league's commercial structure.

Clubs historically prevented access to this information nominated the respected barrister Michael Cush to have discussions with Delaney on their behalf, eager to have a look under the bonnet of the FAI's finances and verify the income and expenditure sums associated with the league itself.

Garrett Kelleher, owner of St Pat's, was a key player in engaging Cush into the role as the clubs' honest broker, as the pair had worked together in tackling a legal case taken by NAMA in pursuit of the developer.

With the merger between the clubs and the FAI up for renewal at the end of this season, those with a vision for change view this window as potentially the last opportunity for transparency to be attained.

"Our game is in crisis," read the statement from the St Pat's board spearheaded by multimillionaire Kelleher. "Ten months since we brought our issues forward nothing material has happened. To demonstrate its commitment the PCA appointed Senior Counsel, Michael Cush, to lead its engagement with the FAI but, to date, his efforts have been largely rebuffed."

Such are the stringent rules around disrepute charges that not just the ferocity of the utterances but the decision of the two clubs to go public at all has caused ripples in League of Ireland circles.

A feeling exists, however, that many outfits within the silent majority are just as keen for accountability to start featuring within the mothership's hierarchy.

Delaney and Kelleher had, of course, previously enjoyed a fruitful relationship.

Ironically, as the FAI's finances plummeted in 2011, Kelleher was afforded an in-depth analysis of their accounts and commenced a process which three years later led to a write-down in their debts to €50m.

Last year, when Delaney came under fire after revelations of the €5m "hush-money" deal with Sepp Blatter were brought to light, Kelleher defended the Irish football supremo, insisting the desperate state of his company's finances at the time left Delaney with no option.

Right now, it's the sector that Kelleher is immersed in, the League of Ireland, which is feeling the brunt of the FAI's mistakes surrounding their financing of the Lansdowne Road Stadium rebuilding costs.


Delaney and Kelleher agree the FAI are not solely culpable for the state of affairs but when those crippling repayment costs, for example, result in the slashing by 80pc of the league's prize money and scrapping of the €15,000 subsidy of Club Promotion Officers (CPOs) for each club, then major questions arise.

"Our board is perfectly prepared to accept its part in this, however all clubs are beholden to the association which has utterly failed to create a suitable environment in which a sustainable, commercially sound League which would nurture young talent and generate public support," the Inchicore club continued.

"It is 10 years since the Association took control of the League of Ireland. In that time it has displayed nothing approaching leadership."

For the FAI's part, they have attempted to downplay talk of dissent, adamant agreement can be hatched by consensus.

"Since the St Patrick's Athletic statement was released on Friday evening a host of leading clubs, including Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Cork City, Bohemians and Galway United - and many others, have come out to support a clear desire to continue to work in partnership with the FAI," they said on Saturday.

Dramatic events over recent days demonstrate the interpretation of what constitutes a partnership remains a sticking point between both sides as the deadline for extending their dalliance approaches.

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