Sunday 25 August 2019

FAI reject players' union 'snub' claim over Abbotstown training camp

Players’ union chief Stephen McGuinness. Photo: Sportsfile
Players’ union chief Stephen McGuinness. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The FAI have claimed that short notice is the reason they have not made their training facilities available to out-of-work players involved in the annual PFA Ireland training camp.

But the players' union believe that tensions between themselves and the FAI over the past year have contributed to the situation that has seen them been forced to rent multi-sport pitches on the National Sports Campus just down the road from FAI HQ in the same Abbotstown complex.

The PFAI have been running the gathering for unemployed pros for the past eight years and the FAI provided kits, balls, equipment and the use of training pitches in Abbotstown once they were installed.

But last week, players' union chief Stephen McGuinness was told by League of Ireland director Fran Gavin that the pitches and kit were not available this year.

The PFAI received assistance from Bohemians, Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk - and the latter's kit suppliers CX Sport - to ensure their camp could start on time.

The episode follows on from a fraught 2017, during which the PFAI represented the senior women's team in their row with the FAI.

They were also on different sides after two Athlone Town players - Igor Labuts and Dragos Sfrijan - received one-year bans from all football activity after an investigation into alleged betting irregularities.

The PFAI are supporting an appeal and are fully prepared to take that case all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland if necessary.

Last night, an FAI spokesman said: "The PFAI came last Thursday looking for the pitches to play. With the notice that they gave, they just weren't available."

It's believed the pitches in Abbotstown were idle yesterday but FAI officials will argue that they cannot overuse their surfaces - including the all-weather facility.

They are also understood to attribute kit unavailability to a changeover in gear supplier to New Balance.

But McGuinness feels that the players - who will train 12 times between now and January and play two friendly games with Martin Russell in charge - are losing out.

"The disappointing thing from our point of view is that this is not about the PFAI; it's about the players who ultimately you would think the FAI care about," said McGuinness, who can seek funding from FIFPRO to cover some of their rental costs.

An unusual angle to the relationship is that the PFAI offices are in Abbotstown. They pay a 'nominal fee' to operate under the same roof, but most of the correspondence between the bodies is now in written form.

McGuinness says that the PFAI wrote to the FAI earlier this year to request a meeting with John Delaney but they were told the timing wasn't right.

"The very reason we moved into Abbotstown was that we would have a working relationship in place where the football family, as it was sold to us, could work together. It doesn't look like it's happening."

The PFAI are keen to speak with the FAI about a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that would introduce a minimum wage and a minimum number of professionals per club to the League of Ireland.

McGuinness feels the picture around the league is improving and said all clubs have honoured wage commitments in 2017.

In a busy week for transfers, Dundalk have completed the capture of Galway's Ronan Murray and Shamrock Rovers have nabbed Irish U-21 defender Ethan Boyle from Finn Harps.

Ex-Hoop Dave Webster has joined Waterford while Derry have signed Gavin Peers from St Pat's and shopped abroad for Armin Aganovic (Sweden), David Hopkirk (Scotland), Conor Agnew (USA) and John Cofie (England).

Irish Independent

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