Cork City manager John Caulfield says he hopes a supporter’s group will win their battle to wrest control of troubled Athlone Town and the match-fixing cloud hanging over the club can have a positive outcome.
The FAI were yesterday concluding their interviews with players and officials as part of their investigation into allegations of match-fixing of the club’s 3-1 defeat to Longford on April 29.
More than €400,000 was gambled on the outcome, prompting Uefa to alert the FAI of “clear and overwhelming evidence” of suspicious betting patterns.
The Athlone Town Consortium, a group of fans, has indicated their willingness to administer the affairs of the club, if the existing committee resigns, and Caulfield backs their efforts.
Caulfield made his League of Ireland debut for Athlone in the early 80s and lived in the environs of the town.
“I’ve a lot of close connections in Athlone,” said Caulfield.
“From a personal point I think it would be great if Athlone Town people came in and took over running of the club and the Athlone Town Consortium was successful. They are genuine football people who know the town, who know their football, and their heart is in the right place.”
Caulfield says he was disappointed but not surprised by the revelations surrounding the First Division club.
“The rumours were there before a ball was kicked this season,” he said yesterday.
“It hasn’t surprised me but it’s disappointing. It’s a bad story that you don’t want to have in our league.
“Maybe it has highlighted gambling issues and people will understand there are problems out there.
“From the start of the season with the outside investment that was coming in, there was a lot of eyebrows raised. It’s very disappointing because when people come in to invest, especially foreign people coming in to invest, you have to be absolutely thorough.
"We all want investment but it’s important that they are thoroughly checked out. Whether they were or not, I’m not so sure.”
The Turner’s Cross boss believes there are lessons to be learned from the debacle.
“There’s always a danger, and you’re naive to think it doesn’t happen or wouldn’t happen. I suppose in every club, you just have to be rigid and stringent and just make sure players fully understand if there’s any doubt in their head that they could do something, that it’s automatic expulsion.
"It’s important for everybody to be vigilant. While 99% of people are good, there’s always someone going to try to pull a stroke.”
Cork City travel to Galway United on Friday night chasing their 13th win in a row, but have injury doubts concerning Alan Bennett, Steven Beattie, and Karl Sheppard, who will see a specialist regarding a knee injury.
City will be facing a Galway side who have found form in recent weeks, beating Dundalk and climbing off the bottom of the SSE Airtricity Premier Division after Monday night’s goalless draw with Derry City.
Candystripes boss Kenny Shiels blasted the quality of the surface at Eamonn Deacy Park as an “absolute disgrace” after the game. Shiels said he took two players off the pitch because of fears over the surface.
Shiels told BBC Radio Foyle: “If you look at a couple of players you will see the condition they are in now, Ben Doherty and Aaron McEneff. I had to take them off. I had to take footballers off the pitch because of the itch.
“Football teams need a pitch to play on. That’s twice we have come down here and the pitch has been awful. And look at the place; it’s beautiful.
“They [the FAI] bring a delegate along and if you step one foot outside the dugout they are down on you like a ton of bricks. But they don’t care about the football pitch.
“ I thought that was an absolute disgrace.
“We resorted to playing like them when we started to kick it long in the second half because the pitch was too bumpy. We couldn’t play. It’s a deterrent from playing football the way the pitch was.”
“What we have here is a beautiful building, a beautiful complex, great infrastructure, lovely dressing rooms, lovely stand. It’s absolutely brilliant. But the League of Ireland has to get their act together.
"The important thing is not the beautiful stand. I’d rather play on a park pitch as long as it’s good. That was outrageous.”
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