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International footballers' union backs Irish amateur player banned for social media comments

The player believes he was suspended for criticising the League’s support of John Delaney, a claim the League denies.

John Delaney was praised by the Clare District League for bringing the FAI AGM to Ennis in 2011.
John Delaney was praised by the Clare District League for bringing the FAI AGM to Ennis in 2011.
Image: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

INTERNATIONAL PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALLERS’ union FIFPro are supporting an Irish amateur footballer in an appeal against a six-month ban imposed by the Clare District Soccer League for comments made on social media. 

On 3 December last, the player was informed by the League he was banned from all football-related activity until 1 June 2020 “following an investigation into comments made on social media.” The player was also warned that any repeat of this behaviour would automatically trigger a further one-year increase to the ban. 

The player is appealing his suspension to the Munster Football Association (MFA). 

There is disagreement between parties as to which comments have earned him a suspension, as they were not specified in the letter confirming the suspension. 

The player believes he has been suspended for criticising the League’s support of former FAI CEO John Delaney.

As pressure grew on Delaney following the revelation that he had paid the FAI a €100,000 bridging loan in 2017, the Clare District League published a statement on their Facebook page in support of the now-former CEO. 

“The Clare District Soccer League acknowledges the contribution John Delaney has made to our League during his time as CEO”, it read.

“He brought the FAI AGM and Festival of Football to Clare in 2011 which played a big part in the promotion of the game in our country and helped a number of local business [sic] at the time.

“He has attended many functions over the years and has been very helpful to the League and our clubs in the development of facilities.”

In light of the revelation that Sports Minister Shane Ross had passed an independent forensic audit of the FAI on to the Gardaí at the end of November, the player published a post on social media asking, “Where are the Delaney defenders now Clare District League..shame on you.”

The League disputes this, and released a statement last Saturday saying the player was banned for social media comments made earlier in the year in which he called those running the League “scumbags.”

“Firstly we have no issue with criticism and everyone is entitled to their opinion. However it’s not criticism when someone takes to social media and calls our committee ‘shower of scumbags’ and calling for ‘complete reform is needed from Clare District Soccer League committee’.

“The player was suspended for bringing the game into disrepute and is entitled to appeal this decision to the MFA as per rules if he is not happy with it.” 

The42 understands that the “scumbags” comment was made in March of this year beneath the League’s now-deleted post in support of John Delaney. 

Although the player was not playing with his present club back in March, the League argue he was a registered player with them at the time. 

The player is now appealing to the MFA, whose Honorary President is, incidentally, John Delaney’s father Joe. 

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Although the PFAI do not represent amateur players in Ireland, PFAI solicitor Stuart Gilhooly has decided to represent the player in the case. 

Having learned of the suspension, FIFPro lawyer Roy Vermeer contacted the PFAI to offer his organisation’s support for the player’s appeal. FIFPro have offered to pay the costs of the player’s appeal for as far as it goes, which in theory includes the scenario of it ending up in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. 

This is highly unlikely, and should the player’s appeal to the MFA fail, the next recourse is an appeal to the FAI.

An appeal to the provincial body costs €250, while an appeal to the FAI costs €500. 

FIFPro work on behalf of more than 65,000 professional footballers in 65 countries across the world. 

- Originally published at 11.51 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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