High Court hears action by Cork City owner Coughlan

An FAI Disciplinary Committee's finding that the owner and Chairman of Cork City FC has brought the game into disrepute "has threatened and disrupted the financial viability and future stability of the League of Ireland club," the High Court heard today.

An FAI Disciplinary Committee's finding that the owner and Chairman of Cork City FC has brought the game into disrepute "has threatened and disrupted the financial viability and future stability of the League of Ireland club," the High Court heard today.

In his action Tom Coughlan claims that he was denied fair procedure by the Football Association's Disciplinary committees refusal to adjourn a meeting being held to consider a charge against him arising out of his actions in connection with the club during the 2009 season.

Mr Coughlan, of Summerville, Eglantine Park, Douglas, Co Cork has brought judicial review proceedings aimed at quashing the FAI' Disciplinary Committee's finding of December 17 last that Mr Coughlan had brought the game into disrepute, a 12-month ban from all football-related activities and a fine of €5000.

The charges against Mr Coughlan relate to allegations that he failed to pay employees on time, failed to meet his obligations to revenue, failed to pay insurance premiums on time, failed to pay ESB resulting in supply being cut off, bounced cheques to referees and revenue, failed to pay transport costs and was involved in two high profile winding up proceedings.

The FAI has opposed the action and has denied that the committee acted unfairly.

Today Mark O'Mahoney Bl for Mr Coughlan said that his client's claim was that the FAI committee failed to adjourn the hearing into charges. Counsel said that his client does not accept that he has brought the game into disrepute.

Problems occurred because the club had serious financial difficulties and not because of any disregard for the club's obligations.

In an affidavit to the court Mr Coughlan said that he wished to address the committee in response to the charges. Following two adjournments the disciplinary hearing was fixed for noon, Thursday December 17 at the FAI's HQ at Abbotstown, Dublin.

He said that he arrived there with his solicitor, however while he was waiting they were informed that the committee's chairman had been held up for five minutes and the disciplinary hearing would take place shortly.

However he said that nobody came to them after 45 minutes. As they had other business to attend to they both left, because they thought the meeting would not take place. He said that after they left his solicitor was telephoned and they were asked to return.

As they had other business to attend to they were not in a position to return. Mr Coughlan said his request for an adjournment was refused by the Committee. Mr Coughlan also refused to conduct the hearing over the telephone. The meeting then proceeded in his absence.

Mr Coughlan claims that refusal was unfair and a breach of fair procedure. He said that the ban will have disastrous effects on the his efforts to secure additional funding for the club, and his ability to negotiate on behalf of the club has been devastated.

In seeking to have the action struck out Paul Gardiner SC for the FAI said that his client is a private sporting body and is not amenable or subject to judicial review.

The FAI claims that Mr Coughlan has the right of an appeal against the Committee's decision but had not taken that option.

It denies that Mr Coughlan was denied fair procedure and that the committee acted fairly in the circumstances. The FAI also disputes Mr Coughlan's account of the what happened on December 17 last. It claims that Mr Coughlan was told the Chairman of the was delayed, but that the meeting was going ahead.

It added that Mr Coughlan was informed within minutes of leaving Abbotstown that the meeting was ready to commence. The FAI further state that it was never indicated to them that Mr Coughlan had scheduled any other appointments for that day.

The hearing, before Mr Justice John Hedigan, is expected to conclude tomorrow.

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