Irish soccer authorities continue their glorious tradition of stupidity
THE Airtricity League has refused to sanction a friendly between Limerick FC and FC Barcelona at Thomond Park.
Limerick FC confirmed today that an agreement has been reached with Barca to play at Thomond Park on July 31 subject to official sanctioning by the Football Association of Ireland.
According to the First Division side, an agreement is in place that the Barcelona team to play Limerick will include stars such as Messi, Ibrahimovic, Xavi, Bojan and all new signings.
However, in line with standard FAI traditions of utter stupidity, the Airtricity League Director, Fran Gavin, has refused to sanction the friendly, because there are two other FAI fixtures the same night. Limerick FC Chairman Pat O’Sullivan said this decision would cost the region millions.
He said: “This is a massive setback for Limerick FC, Limerick City and the Mid-West region. We, along with Thomond Park and local tourism bodies, have worked tirelessly to bring a team of the stature of FC Barcelona to the sports-mad Mid-West region.
“The potential benefit to the local economy of up to €10 million and to the pride of soccer in the region is enormous. This makes it imperative that the Airtricity League Director reverse his decision, sanction this match and allow fans all over the region to see the likes of Lionel Messi grace Thomond Park.”
FAI statement in response to this evening’s statement from Limerick FC
1) As the FAI has already told Limerick FC, their request for authorisation to confirm to FC Barcelona that they would be able to play in Ireland on July 31, was refused because of third party commercial agreements which prevent the Association from doing so.
2) In addition, the FAI has also told Limerick FC that it is in active and ongoing negotiations with FC Barcelona in relation to a visit of Aviva Stadium.
3) Thirdly, the Association told Limerick FC that it was obliged to retain ownership of the July 31 date because of Airtricity League fixtures.
Although the timing of Limerick FC’s proposal means this request cannot be granted, the FAI has already given permission to Limerick FC for a match it applied for involving Sunderland in Thomond Park on July 13.
Cretins. They can’t even put together a press statement in coherent English. Don’t forget, these are the same dimwits who engineered the Saipan debacle. What would you expect from such a bunch of half-wits?
Limerick FC have re-affirmed their commitment to playing FC Barcelona in Thomond Park on July 31st, and, along with Barcelona, are calling on the FAI to rescind their controversial decision not to sanction the friendly.
In a statement issued today, Limerick pointed out that in the long and glorious history of FC Barcelona that this is the first time that the club have been declined permission to play a friendly in any country – except Ireland, courtesy of the actions of Football Association of Ireland.
The FAI refused to sanction the friendly and claim they are in talks with the Spanish club for a friendly in the Aviva Stadium.
But Limerick have hit back, and say that Barca are not in negotiations with the FAI over a friendly game in Ireland this year.
Are the FAI lying?
“Limerick FC would like to clarify certain matters in relation to the statement released by the FAI regarding their reasons for not sanctioning the proposed friendly between Limerick FC and FC Barcelona on July 31st in Thomond Park.
In the long and glorious history of FC Barcelona, the club has never been declined permission to play a friendly in any country it has visited. It is a shame that the FAI will now have the indignity of being the first national association to make this happen. The failure of the FAI to sanction the friendly game with Limerick FC on 31st July could thus impact negatively on future plans for FC Barcelona to visit Ireland.
FC Barcelona is not in negotiations with the FAI over a friendly game in Ireland for this summer or for summer 2011. FC Barcelona did meet with a delegation from the FAI at Camp Nou last month in order to analyse the possibility of visiting Ireland during summer 2011. However, no formal paperwork outlining plans for the proposed friendly have been received by FC Barcelona from the FAI, no proposed dates for the friendly have been discussed and no financial terms have been proposed by the FAI. The only negotiations that FC Barcelona have undertaken in Ireland during this year are with Limerick FC and a heads of agreement has been reached by both parties for 31st July in Thomond Park.
In addition the closeness of just 5 days between our club’s proposed game in Thomond Park to the visit of Manchester United to the Aviva Stadium, is something that should be embraced by the FAI. It will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for Irish fans to see two of the world’s biggest clubs grace two of Ireland’s greatest stadiums in quick succession.
Finally, Limerick FC re-affirm their commitment to playing in Thomond Park on 31st July and FC Barcelona is awaiting final approval from the FAI to continue with this potential game. Both clubs are calling on the FAI to sanction the game for the good of Irish football, Limerick FC, Limerick City and entire Mid-West region.”
“The game is going ahead. I would love it to go ahead, but it will not go ahead.”
The above were the words of FAI CEO John Delaney in relation to the proposed friendly between Limerick FC and FC Barcelona at Thomond Park this summer.
Delaney was taking part in a discussion with Fine Gael Limerick East TD, Kieran O’Donnell and Dr Michael Somers, former CEO of the National Treasury Management Agency, on the Marian Finucane show on RTE at the weekend.
Delaney, accusing Limerick FC of being naive, said that they are unable to grant the game because they are contractually bound to other people.
Finucane asked who the arrangement is with (probably Kentaro).
Delaney : One of our third parties who we work with in terms of arranging friendlies. We would have a relationship in terms of the organisation of friendlies coming into Ireland. There are certain games we can grant and certain games we cannot grant in terms of attendance figures. The owner of Limerick Football Club accepted that and said that would be the end of the matter. Unfortunately then they start issuing statements on Thursday night. They’ve tried to bring it into the public arena and put pressure on us.
We were as well negotiating with Barcelona to come to Dublin next year. Padraig Smith and Noel Mooney went out there to meet them three or four weeks ago. they looked for a proposal that was going to be sent to them in the autumn. We’ve also got correspondence from Barcelona last week saying they’ve not agreed to the game in Limerick yet because it’s up to their manager and I know how that would work as when we were getting Manchester United to come, it always requires the manager to sign off. The commercial side will have one view on it, but the manager from a football perspective will determine it.
Delaney then goes on to cast doubt on whether Limerick FC have done a deal with FC Barcelona.
“I don’t believe they’ve done a deal. We got an email from Barcelona in the late end of this week saying they haven’t agreed to it.”
Kieran O’Donnell interjects: My understanding is they have?
Delaney responds: I can only operate in the facts that I have. The correspondence that was shown to me, I think it was on Thursday, that we got from Barcelona, (stated) that they had not agreed to it, that they had not signed off on it. That’s the first thing.
Marian Finucane: To get back to the point, why?
Delaney: We have signed up to an agreement with an agency that brings games into Ireland on our behalf and that restricts our ability to grant friendlies of a certain capacity. We can’t let it happen. We run the League of Ireland, we put a lot of money into the running of League of Ireland. The league costs us €5m.
Kieran O’Donnell: Barca have the heads of agreement ready to roll, all they’re waiting for is the nod.
Delaney: They’re not the facts. I said to you on Thursday, there’s an email sent. They have not. That statement is libellous.
It sounds like anti-competitive behaviour. If the club has the entrepreneurship to bring in Barcelona, then why not?
Delaney: We’re legally restricted on it. They’ve got to ask for our permission. Every club understands that. We wrote to the clubs a year ago to say if you’re bringing in games, ask us first. We’ve had difficulty in the past, with games coming in which have upset our own league calendar. Another fear I’d have for this game, by the way, is to get Barcelona costs €1m. To host the game, including the security, rent to Thomond Park, flying the clubs in, could be €2m. So, for the club to make money on it, I can’t see how it would work.
Meantime, Dr Michael Somers is baffled and equates it to trying to argue with a civil service department.
Marian Finucane asks: Is it about money, John?
Delaney responds: It ultimately comes down to that Marian, but also, if you put a position and it’s accepted by the club and they say, that’s fine, and we’ll see you on Wednesday and you behave in the manner they’ve done, bringing the game into disrepute a bit, the way they’ve behaved the last couple of days, around the time of the opening of the stadium, issuing legal letters on Friday. It was done in poor taste. Naive. I deal with clubs all the time, national associations and agents, I know the way it works. I think the guys in Limerick have been very naive in how they’ve dealt with this, and who they’re dealing with and I can only deal with the that facts I have.
Kieran O’Donnell: This is something the kids will dream of, the kids of Limerick, to see Messi.
JD: But we’ll see Messi on the 11th of August (at the Aviva Stadium where Ireland host Argentina).
Later in the show, Marian Finucane says that Limerick owner Pat O’Sullivan has called in to assert that they do have agreement with Barcelona, pending the all-clear from the FAI.
Delaney adds: I wish Pat (O’Sullivan) had stuck to his promise to Noel Mooney on Thursday and come up to the meeting this Wednesday. That was on the agenda along with other items for the development of Limerick Football Club. And bringing things into the public arena and issuing statements back and forth doesn’t service Irish football or Irish sport.
Panel: But it might get them (Limerick FC) their gig in Limerick.
Delaney: Well, it won’t. It goes against them and that’s the problem.
Panel: Are you willing to sit down with Limerick?
Delaney: I’ll sit down with anybody. My job is to develop Irish football and I’ll sit down with anybody.
Panel: Will you sit down with Pat O’Sullivan and Limerick FC to discuss this issue?
Delaney: I can’t when there is a legal letter in the air. If they withdraw that, then they have some chance. I will sit with anybody to develop Irish football — that’s my role.
The above is an edited version of the Finucane show.
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