Delaney warns of further problems for clubs

FAI chief executive John Delaney said yesterday the worst of the financial difficulties facing League of Ireland clubs were in the past but warned there will be “further difficulties” to come.

He was addressing the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Sport where he was asked to discuss the difficulties faced by domestic clubs.

Committee chairman Tom Kitt had described it as a “league in crisis” on Monday after recent financial difficulties involving Derry City, Cork City and Drogheda United.

The next financial hurdle for the league’s clubs will come on December 21, by which time all are expected to have their players’ wages paid in full as part of the licensing agreement or, failing that, for agreements to do so at a future date to be in place.

While some clubs are struggling somewhat to have everything in order for that deadline, Cork City’s situation is believed to be far more serious. But, as Delaney said, Tom Coughlan has “jumped some hurdles in the past”.

Another obstacle facing the Cork City owner is today’s appointment with the association’s Disciplinary Control Unit, where he faces a charge of bringing the game into disrepute after the club’s numerous off-the-field difficulties in 2009.

Coughlan could face a fine or even a ban from football for a specified period, although Delaney admitted the charge was unusual and not one that has been seen in recent years.

“The difficulty is a lot of the stakeholders have lost their trust in who is running Cork City,” said Delaney.

“We believe Tom Coughlan has brought the game into disrepute over the last 12 months. That is what we believe, but the committee is independent and we will see what comes of that. They may decide he has no case to answer. I don’t even know if Tom will turn up.”

Derry City’s travails, which were described by the association’s chief executive as a warning shot to the domestic footballing community, were also on the agenda in Leinster House.

Though Delaney was firm in his defence of the punishment meted out by the FAI for the Candystripes’ financial irregularities last season, he added he had “no difficulty” with them playing First Division football next year.

Delaney also warned the FAI would continue to crack down hard on clubs who breached financial guidelines and there would be no tolerance of “people running clubs in an unfit or cavalier manner”.

In his statement to the committee, he claimed the League had made huge progress since its amalgamation with the FAI in 2006 and pointed out annual club losses had fallen from €6.9m to €2.7m.

“While some League of Ireland clubs have failed to play their part in setting and maintaining those standards, the majority are contributing to the positive results and improving trends reported,” said Delaney.

“These achievements should be acknowledged in the context of a very challenging economic environment and will be the basis for the clubs to take advantage of future upturns in the economy.”

One thing in the clubs’ favour this off-season is the fact that 90% of the league’s players are out of contract which, in FAI-speak, will allow them to implement debt reduction strategies.

Delaney also spoke to reporters about the recent Budget and its consequences for soccer and the wider sporting community and was positive about the future for the frozen Sports Capital Grant and Sports Campus Ireland.

As for the former, the Waterford man declared that he expected some new funding for the programme in 2011 while the latter’s uncertain future seemed much brighter after the €3m allocated to it last Wednesday.

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