TOM COUGHLAN is to appeal the 12-month ban and €5,000 fine imposed on him yesterday at a disciplinary hearing in Abbotstown. The announcement of the severe sanction, after Coughlan was found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute, was followed by a call from the FAI for the Cork City chairman to consider his position.
Confirming that he will appeal the Disciplinary Committee’s decision, Coughlan last night told the Irish Examiner that he considered it “outrageous, unjust and unfair”.
The Cork City chairman was not present to hear the decision, having left Abbotstown with his legal advisor after, he says, being left waiting an hour for proceedings to begin.
Coughlan’s solicitors, James Riordan and partners, later issued the following statement outlining their version of events: “We were consulted by Tom Coughlan Chairman of Cork City in relation to his hearing at FAI Headquarters, Abbotstown, Dublin at 12pm today.
“Having confirmed our attendance, as requested by the FAI, we arrived with Tom Coughlan at 11.45am and were shown to a waiting room by Mr Vincent O’Flaherty FAI. At 12.00 we were informed that the chairman of the hearing had been delayed for five minutes.
“At 12.45pm, having had no further contact, we spoke with the receptionist and asked for Mr O’Flaherty but the receptionist was unable to locate him anywhere and accordingly, Mr Riordan gave the receptionist his mobile number and asked her to have Mr O’Flaherty contact him as soon as possible to reschedule the hearing. In the absence of anything further, Mr Coughlan and I then left the building to attend to other business. Approximately 15 minutes later Mr O’Flaherty telephoned me and referred the chairman of the committee on to me. I asked the chairman to re-schedule the hearing as soon as possible. The chairman said that the meeting would proceed and he asked me to return with Mr Coughlan but I responded that I had other business to attend to and could not immediately return but that he was anxious to have the hearing rescheduled quickly. The chairman refused to countenance this and said that the hearing would proceed immediately in our absence.
“Mr Coughlan is now questioning this decision and has serious reservations about the FAI’s attitude to him, based not alone on today’s events, but also recent comments made in the national media by Fran Gavin FAI League Director and FAI Chief Executive John Delaney.”
In a statement announcing their decision, the Independent Disciplinary Committee confirmed that Tom Coughlan and his legal representative had initially attended FAI headquarters but claimed that they had left after 40 minutes. The committee said that it subsequently contacted Coughlan’s solicitor and were told that his client would not be attending the hearing. The committee also said that an offer to conduct the hearing by teleconference was declined.
The statement went on: “Having afforded the respondent two prior adjournments this committee deemed it appropriate to proceed to hear the evidence against the respondent in the absence of the respondent.”
In his absence, the committee found Coughlan guilty of bringing the game into disrepute, banned him from “any football related activity for a period of 12 months” and imposed a €5,000 fine to be paid within 30 days.
It’s understood that Coughlan has four days in which to appeal.
The FAI later confirmed the decision of the Independent Disciplinary Committee and said the ban would take immediate effect. Said the Association: “The ban will exclude Mr Coughlan, as Director of Cork City FC, from FAI Council membership and all privileges will be withdrawn with immediate effect. In addition, Mr Coughlan will be banned from representing the club under the participation agreement as well as nomination to any FAI committee, under any capacity.”
Heaping more pressure on the City chairman, League of Ireland Director Fran Gavin then called for Coughlan to consider his position at the club.
“The majority of League of Ireland clubs operate as independent companies and their Directors are responsible for ensuring that they are run in accordance with Irish company law,” he said. “The FAI cannot dictate who owns clubs as this would conflict with company law and is purely a matter for the club or limited company. When Mr Coughlan was selected last year by the examiner to bring Cork City FC out of examinership, the move was welcomed. While we acknowledge that Mr Coughlan invested money in Cork City FC at that difficult time, his subsequent actions have damaged the credibility of both the club and the League. Although Mr Coughlan is presently owner and Director of Cork City FC, we now call on him to consider his position in the interests of the fans and the players, as well as the long-term future of the club.”
THE FAI’s move comes against the backdrop of reliable reports that other parties would be willing and financially ready to take over at Cork should Coughlan be prepared to step aside.
The decision also came on a day which saw a bizarre twist in the Cork City managerial succession stakes, as both Roddy Collins and the club dismissed a statement purporting to have come from representatives of Floriana, the Maltese club which the Dubliner had been managing since June.
The statement said that Collins was still under contract to Floriana and charged Cork with an “immoral and underhanded” approach to the manager.
However, although the statement – issued by e-mail to the Irish media – carried the club crest and mentioned the names of two of its Irish representatives, the contact phone number it contained was incorrect.
Collins, in line to be Cork’s new manager, dismissed the statement, saying that he had already squared his departure from Floriana with the club’s president.
Cork City have also cast doubt on the credibility of the e-mail.
According to a statement from Turner’s Cross: “The club was approached by representatives of Mr Roddy Collins to express his interest in the vacancy at the club, and subsequently by Mr Collins himself.
“Chairman Tom Coughlan and General Manager Liam Meaney have met once with Mr Collins with regard to the vacancy. At this meeting, it was acknowledged that Mr Collins is the existing manager of Floriana FC and before any formal discussions could take place, he has been requested to confirm his existing contractual status.
“We would like to stress at this point that neither Mr Collins nor anyone else has been appointed as manager of the club.
“While it has been alleged that representatives of Floriana FC have been unable to contact Cork City Football Club at various times over the past week, the club office is staffed from 9am to 6pm every day, and at no point has an email, phone call or fax, or indeed any correspondence, been received from Floriana FC. With regard to the personal and hurtful remarks attributed to an ‘official’ spokesperson of Floriana, having contacted the club directly, we sincerely doubt the integrity of the released statement.
“Cork City Football Club hope to announce the appointment of a new first team manager within the next 48 hours.”
While Collins yesterday confirmed his desire to take up the Cork job – and sources at the club were saying a deal was “effectively done” – the 12-month ban on Tom Coughlan and the fresh questions it raises about his future at the club will inevitably cast doubt on such an appointment actually taking place.
However, it is understood that the ban is essentially concerned with the Cork City’s chairman’s dealings with the FAI and, even though it has come into immediate effect, would not prevent Tom Coughlan from appointing Roddy Collins if both parties can still agree a deal.
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