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The leaked FAI letter shows what could be achieved when they communicate

The licencing programme ‘does some great work in on-going support to clubs and that should be acknowledged’.

Follow the floodlights: Dalymount Park.
Follow the floodlights: Dalymount Park.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

I GUESS MANY will have seen the letter the FAI sent to clubs this week updating on the €5,000 consultation fee distributed to clubs.

Perhaps some will be annoyed at the league, but we know the story.

League of Ireland clubs leak information.

In years gone by I’d attend club meetings and there would be an agreement from all regarding confidentiality, but the contents of meetings would still make the next day’s papers.

By the time I left football, I think I had a pretty good idea on which clubs had hotlines to which journalists.

The FAI might have guessed that the letter would end up being available for public consumption. It’s written as a testament to the good work they’ve done, but there are a few points worth focusing on.

The first is the FAI’s insistence that they “would have difficulty in continuing the progressive process… if Mr Kinsella (the representative from St Pats that the PCA had elected) was present”.

It doesn’t sit well that the FAI should try to influence who sits across from them at the table.

Should the PCA express a lack of confidence in their counterparts from the association and ask for their removal from a progressive process, it wouldn’t even be considered.

The FAI also offer a choice of consultant in four companies: KONITOS, LEAP, OUT-SOURCE and W2 CONSULTING.

The FAI then proceed to detail the debt reduction evident over the years since the FAI took over the running of the League of Ireland, a whopping €7,000,000 back in 2007.

Undoubtedly the level of debt across the league clubs is significantly less than 2007 and the licencing process has genuinely helped to drive greater prudence across clubs than the pre-merger days, but it must also be factored in that the country is more prudent too, coming through a significant period of austerity post the Celtic Tiger boom.

But the merger period has also seen the loss of Kildare County, Sporting Fingal, Kilkenny City and Monaghan United. It’s also worth noting that much of the €7,000,000 debt from 2007 was never paid as examinership processes for Shamrock Rovers, Drogheda United and Cork City saw huge tracts of debt left unpaid.

It’s also clear, and I can speak from first-hand experience at Cork City, that the prudence of that club since supporters took control is more about the negative experiences of the past than the licencing structure itself.

But be clear, licencing has made a significant impact, if only in challenging unrealistic notions club might have by forcing them to think about costs.

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The final point worth noting is the list of projects that the FAI have worked on with league clubs from an infrastructure viewpoint and to be fair, while none of the infrastructure projects listed are actually owned by the club, it would be disingenuous to suggest that the FAI influence here was vitally important.

The Licencing and Infrastructure office in Abbotstown does some great work in on-going support to clubs and that should be acknowledged.

Right now, the league clubs need the FAI just as much as the FAI need the league clubs. The successes in financial improvement and infrastructure advancement came about from parties talking to each other.

I’ve said numerous times in the past that Richard Fahey’s Licencing and Infrastructure department do great work but it comes from a base of ongoing open discussion and communication.

The FAI’s attempt in the letter from President Tony Fitzgerald limits who clubs can talk to in terms of consultants and tries to influence who the clubs should elect to represent them. That’s not the “progressive process” described in the letter.

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