The feud between Saint Patricks' Athletic and the Football Association of Ireland has escalated this afternoon, as Pats' have released a statement in response to an earlier FAI statement critical of the club's rejection of a €5,000 FAI grant to aid the club's development of a five-year strategic plan.
Pats' followed the earlier example of Derry City in rejecting the offer from the FAI, and were extremely critical of the Association in a statement confirming their decision:
The board of SPAFC wants its decision to serve as a clear message to the FAI that it has utterly failed in its responsibility to the domestic game and to those clubs who, in spite of its indifference, have managed to keep some semblance of professionalism within football in Ireland.
The FAI responded this morning, with Communications Manager Ian Mallon quoted in the Irish Independent as saying that
St Patrick's Athletic's statement is extraordinary, given that they, through their rep Frank Kinsella, were central to the Strategic/Business strategy process agreement.
Frank Kinsella attended the meeting between the PCA and the FAI, with Michael Cush, agreed and signed off on the process, and now, more than a week later his club has decided they don't want to be a part of something they agreed to in the first place. It defies all logic.
The Association followed up with a lengthy statement on their website in which the Association "expressed disappointment with St Patrick's Athletic's Statement", going on to say that they the club's rejection of the grant was "all the more astonishing given that St Patrick's Athletic were one of the clubs who agreed to the process, in the first place".
The statement went on to explain that Frank Kinsella - General Manager of St Pats' - attended a meeting with the FAI on July 27 along with two other (unnamed) club representatives and barrister Michael Cush to represent the Premier Clubs Alliance.
Here is an excerpt from the FAI's statement regarding what happened at this meeting:
Frank Kinsella, of St Patrick's Athletic, was one of the three club representatives, along with barrister Michael Cush, who represented the Premier Clubs Association (PCA) - who represent all League clubs - at a meeting with the FAI in Clonmel on July 27.
At that meeting, it was agreed that a €100,000 grant programme for strategic business planning be put in place for all League clubs, and that a statement would be agreed and released, following ultimate approval by the PCA.
The PCA, with Frank Kinsella, had welcomed the process where clubs would be assisted financially, in the drawing up of clear business plans for the next five years, which would give a clear pathway for the future of the League.
At no point during this meeting did Frank Kinsella, as a representative of the PCA or St Patrick's Athletic, voice his disapproval to the plan, and was, in fact, enthusiastic about the process.
He, and the other representatives of the PCA, went on the record with the Association at the time and declared it welcomed "the announcement by the FAI, (and) that they will support the clubs in preparing five-year strategic plans by investing €100,000".
League Director Fran Gavin was also quoted in the statement, in which he termed the statement by Saint Pats' as "confusing":
The FAI's Director of Competitions, Fran Gavin, said that the statement by St Patrick's Athletic was "extremely confusing".
"This is quite extraordinary given that the club's representative was one of the architects in agreeing the funding initiative in the first place," said Gavin.
"At no point did Frank Kinsella speak on behalf of himself or his club to voice concerns or otherwise with the funding grant. Nor did he declare that he didn't want to be part of this latest development in what is an ongoing process.
"This is extremely confusing and is quite frustrating that St Patrick's Athletic have decided that parts of this process, which their representative agreed to, is now not for them.
In the last few minutes, Saint Patrick's Athletic have responded with a second statement on their website.
The statement refuted the FAI's claims that there was anything "extraordinary" about the club's rejection of the €5,000 grant and emphasised the club's commitment to the process of working with the FAI as recommended by the Conroy Report. The statement was once again critical of the FAI, saying that he "has utterly failed to create a suitable environment in which a sustainable, commercially sound League which would nurture young talent and generate public support".
The final paragraph states that "What prevails with the FAI is an approach whereby it decides everything and where it dictates policy with the occasional PR flurry to try and create a public image that its senior executives are committed to change and to improvement".
Here is that statement in full:
The FAI last night attempted to undermine the statement issued by this football club by suggesting it was "extraordinary" that our General Manager had attended a meeting at which the Association's proposed grant to clubs was tabled and had not objected to it. There is nothing extraordinary about the actions of the club or its General Manager. As we said in our original statement last night, the club's most senior executive attended the meeting and brought the outcomes to the board of the club for its consideration. The board made its decision and in light of Derry City's announcement made that decision public.
The context for this is important. At a meeting of the Premier Clubs Association in 2015 a decision was made to engage with the FAI on a number of points.
The Board of St Patrick's Athletic agreed to continue to engage with the PCA as these points were common to most clubs and there was complete agreement. These were based around further clarity in areas such as transparency on revenue received by the FAI on behalf of the League from UEFA, FIFA, Sponsorship, Government, municipalities, etc.
The rationale deployed in deciding policy on TV coverage, match selection/timings/revenue etc. A breakdown of the annual running costs of the League and the basis for the league affiliation fees. Further clarity on income streams used by the FAI to support running the League - major sponsorship sums, Cup gates etc.
Finally it was agreed to look at participation agreement issues and the level of fines and the use of those fines.
Our game is in crisis. That is why the clubs established the PCA so that the Premier League clubs would consider their responsibilities and attempt to engage with the governing body with a view to effecting change. Ten months since we brought these issues forward nothing material has happened. We have made Association aware of the seriousness of the challenge facing the senior clubs - and the domestic game at all levels - but there has been no serious engagement. To demonstrate its commitment the PCA appointed Senior Counsel, Michael Cush, to lead its engagement with the FAI but, to date, his efforts have been largely rebuffed. It may appear strange in a week when two of our clubs brought such distinction to our domestic game to talk of the League being in crisis but that is by no means an exaggeration.
It is not the FAI's role alone to address the crisis. The responsibility for this lies with various stakeholders including the clubs. The board of St Patrick's Athletic is perfectly prepared to accept its part in this however all the senior clubs are beholden to the Association which has utterly failed to create a suitable environment in which a sustainable, commercially sound League which would nurture young talent and generate public support. It is ten years since the Association took control of the League of Ireland. In that time it has displayed nothing approaching leadership.
It is also not the case that addressing the needs of the PCA or indeed all 20 League clubs across the two Divisions is sufficient because, as senior clubs, we recognise that there is a need for an integrated approach where the game is developed from the ground level up and from top down at the same time and our schoolboys clubs have an enormous amount to contribute to this effort.
What prevails with the FAI is an approach whereby it decides everything and where it dictates policy with the occasional PR flurry to try and create a public image that its senior executives are committed to change and to improvement. This is the great irony of its primary criticism of last night's statement by the club. When our GM brought the FAI proposal to the board for review and it decided not to accept it and announced that decision, the FAI chooses to paint that as an "extraordinary" outcome. The GM behaved absolutely appropriately and if the FAI considers a process where an executive brings proposals to his board for discussion and decision as "extraordinary", then that is a reflection on the way in which the FAI conducts its business not on St Patrick's Athletic.