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Clare League fined after suspending player for social media comments
Clare and District League charged with bringing the game into disrepute by FAI Disciplinary Committee.

THE CLARE AND DISTRICT Soccer League has been fined €500 and warned over their future conduct following their decision to suspend a player for comments made on social media.

Shannon Town C footballer Jordan Downes was suspended in November 2019 for making “abusive comments” related to the league’s show of support for John Delaney.

At a hearing conducted by the FAI Disciplinary Committee on Wednesday, the Clare and District League was charged with bringing the game into disrepute by failing to follow proper procedures in the case.

However, the FAI’s Disciplinary Control Unit did not overturn Downes’ ban as they say it is not within their jurisdiction to do so. 

Downes’ suspension made national headlines in December when he claimed that he had been suspended for criticising the League’s public support of former FAI CEO Delaney. 

The player had left a comment beneath a official post made on the League’s Facebook page in March 2019 “acknowledging the contribution John has made to our League during his time as CEO”.

Minutes from a League Committee meeting on 2 December 2019, seen by The42, say that the initial Facebook post in support of John Delaney was approved by all members of the committee. 

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The issue reared its head again in November 2019 when Downes posted a Facebook link and a comment on the news that the independent KOSI audit into the FAI’s financial affairs had been referred to An Garda Síochána. 

Downes’ club, Shannon Town, were made aware of this post and contacted the League to say that they did not support Downes’ “inexcusable” behaviour, and that he was facing a “massive suspension”. 

The League Committee unanimously suspended Downes from all football-related activity until 1 June 2020, citing “a series of abusive comments”. 

The League then wrote to Shannon Town on 3 December to inform them of the suspension and advise that “any repeat of this behaviour will automatically trigger an increase in this suspension until 1 June 2021″. 

Documents submitted to the FAI’s Disciplinary Control Unit show that Downes was informed of the suspension in person by the club chairperson on Thursday 5 December at the Shannon Springs Hotel while watching a Premier League game between Arsenal and Brighton. 

Downes did not request a written copy of the decision from the League until the following day, and then lodged an appeal to the Munster Football Association (MFA) on 10 December. This was rejected as the MFA decreed that the appeal was lodged outside of the window for appeal, which is four days after the date of receipt of the original suspension. 

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Downes then lodged an appeal with the FAI. A hearing was held at FAI buildings at Abbottstown on Wednesday, which was attended by Downes and his representative, PFAI solicitor Stuart Gilhooly. Representatives of Shannon Town and the Clare District Soccer League were not present as they said they could not afford to take time off work.  

Following a review of correspondence and documentation relating to the case, the Disciplinary Control Unit charged the League with bringing the game into disrepute over failing to follow proper procedures relating to the suspension.

In a letter to the Clare District Soccer League, Disciplinary Regulations Officer Keith Rolls said, “No rules were quoted in the decision that was issued to Shannon Town. No right of appeal was documented in the decision. The correct procedures, as per FAI rules, were not followed.” 

“The methods and procedures adopted by Clare District Soccer League have no place in modern sports administration,” said Gilhooly, representing Downes. 

“Having seen in the manner in which they dealt with this matter, if the scene appeared in an episode of Father Ted, it would be laughed off as implausible. We have been left now with the correct finding that they have brought the game into disrepute but with the inexplicable result that the direct cause of the finding, the suspension of Jordan Downes, remains intact.

“Jordan has already been wrongly suspended for three months, he shouldn’t serve an extra day. Legal consequences must flow from that.”

Shannon Town and the Clare District Soccer League have the right to appeal the ruling.

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