League of Ireland clubs in no position to reject betting companies, Alan Mathews insists

Alan Mathews says it is only right Airtricity League clubs, struggling for finance in the middle of a pandemic, should be allowed pursue sponsorship deals with the gambling industry
League of Ireland clubs in no position to reject betting companies, Alan Mathews insists

St Patrick's Athletic first team manager Alan Mathews:  I think each club has the right to make its own decisions itself. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

St Patrick’s Athletic first-team manager Alan Mathews believes it is only right that League of Ireland clubs continue to have the right to pursue sponsorship deals with gambling companies.

The FAI recently decided against a tie-in with Paddy Power with chief executive Jonathan Hill explaining that having a betting partner “was not something they wanted to pursue”. The GAA and English FA are other bodies to have turned their backs on betting tie-ins in recent years.

However, League of Ireland director Mark Scanlon has confirmed that league clubs here are free to take their own stances on the matter, provided they adhere to Uefa and FAI regulations.

Shamrock Rovers announced a deal with 888sport just this week while Dundalk confirmed a link-up with BetRegal last December.

St Pat’s main shirt sponsor is McCarthy Insurance Group but Mathews believes the economic climate is such that clubs need as many options as possible in order to help balance the books.

“In all honesty, I think each club has the right to make its own decisions itself,” he explained on Friday afternoon. “Money is scarce in the world, in this country, given the pandemic we're in. For a club to be able to negotiate a sponsorship deal is their business and it's good to see people coming involved.

“The FAI obviously have their own reasons why they wouldn't get involved with a bookmaking firm, but that's for the club to decide.

Any club that can get sponsorship in this difficult environment would be very welcome. 

"That's how I would feel about it and each club needs to deal with it itself.”

Mathews is again part of a management structure in Inchicore this season which includes Stephen O’Donnell as head coach. The former has a Uefa Pro Licence, O’Donnell does not. None of this is news but it did become more topical this week thanks to events in Dundalk.

The FAI Cup champions announced on Tuesday that Shane Keegan would now be listed as team manager, and the man with the final word in team selection, while Filippo Giovagnoli is now simply to be known as a coach. Again, Keegan has his Pro licence and the Italian does not.

It’s a twist that has raised many an eyebrow. Dundalk were fined €50,000 by Uefa last season for what it termed shadow coaching on the part of Giovagnoli during the Europa League when he did not possess the necessary paperwork.

“Nothing has changed on our part,” said O’Donnell of the situation at St Pat’s. “Dundalk had their say earlier in the week, we work the way we have been working, Alan is the manager and I am the head coach.

“You see a lot of different titles in leagues all around Europe and nothing has changed on our behalf. We will continue to work the way we have been. It's a whole staff effort from all of the coaching staff.”

The Galway man added that the management structure does not act as a “dictatorship”, that every member of the coaching staff has a say with team selection, and that this has been the way at every club he has been involved with.

Mathews and O’Donnell, along with other club representatives, met with senior officials in the FAI before the start of the 2020 season to outline their modus operandi in this regard and, as was the case now with Dundalk, the FAI declared themselves to be happy with that.

“To give a bit of clarity to it, we have had a pretty good working operation, a good operating rhythm, for the last 18 months or so,” said Mathews.

“With us all and, in essence, in any organisational function, there is collaboration across everything: from bringing in players to moving players on, to what way we want to play this year and implementing that on the training ground.

“No-one has the overall… It's a collective and it works in that regard across the board. We are trying to do as best we can and we feel we have no questions to answer because of something else that's gone on outside of our control.

We have operated this way since the beginning of pre-season last year and it works really well.

"It's not an issue that we need to address, it's something that's happened elsewhere that's led to a story but it's not a story here.”

St Pat's get their 2021 SSE Airtricity League Premer Division campaign up and running on Friday, March 19 when they face Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght.

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