The shadow that loomed over any success the League of Ireland enjoyed last season was repeated controversy surrounding Bray Wanderers.
Financial scares led to players wages going unpaid and subsequent odd statements which depicted Co. Wicklow as the 'North Korea of Ireland for business' saw the long-term future of the club come into question. Eventually, matters were resolved and last week the club were granted a licence for the new season.
Speaking to balls.ie today at the launch of the SSE Airtricity League, FAI Director of Competitions Fran Gavin admitted the fiasco was damaging for the league's overall image.
It wasn't one of the finest hours for the League to be honest, what went on in Bray. I think Bray have learned a lot from that. Some of the statements that came out of the club were bizarre really. It was very hard to understand what the intention was or what they were trying to achieve there. It didn't do well for the brand, it didn't look well for the brand of the league. They are a good club Bray, they are. They fulfilled all their commitments last year to every player. There wasn't anything owed. It was a difficult time for the league and the club there. Some of their players have gone back and signed again they are trying to build the club and build a squad that competes.
Last week the FAI concluded its match-fixing investigation concerning Bray Wanderers last season. The club found themselves at the centre of the investigation after a friendly against Waterford.
The FAI conducted an investigation involving Gardai. An FAI statement confirmed there was 'insufficient evidence to bring any charges in relation to any breaches of FAI rules.'
Last season, two Athlone Town players were found in breach of betting rules by an Independent Disciplinary Committee. The pair have launched legal proceedings against the FAI with an appeal delayed by a dispute over whether the FAI can introduce new evidence or not.
However speaking today, Fran Gavin was adamant the organisation would do everything in its power to defend the league's integrity under any circumstance.
We as an association, we are tasked with governing the league. If we have a situation where we have a report of possible match-fixing or anything like that, we have an obligation to investigate that. We have a zero-tolerance policy on betting, on match manipulation or anything that affects the league and we investigate it.
If anyone thinks they can come into the league, invest in a club and try and get involved in anything that will affect the integrity, well they are in the wrong league because we will go after them. It's very time consuming for us, but it's something that we're committed too.