On the football field this season, Bray Wanderers are playing under their 5th manager after only 20 league games. After starting with 5 defeats, Bray are now comfortably away from relegation and in 7th position. Let us try and explain, as best we can, what's happened so far this season.
5 managers for 19 games
Alan Mathews resigned in April 2nd citing a "complete breakdown in communication" with the club board. Bray had lost their opening 5 league games of the season. They released their first statement of the season;
The Board and Owners of Bray Wanderers are fully committed, as a priority, to sustaining the club’s Premier League status and keeping the club alive financially. There are ongoing initiatives to improve the club both on and off the pitch. These include plans to further improve and utilise facilities at the stadium, as we understand the importance of our home ground to supporters.
Mathews was replaced by Maciej Tarnogrodzki, who had been coach with their underage teams, but he lasted a month before stepping down to "reflect" on his role. Bray released a statement thanking him for his efforts. His last game was a televised 8-1 defeat to Dundalk.
That recent results did not go his way are far from a reflection on Maciej – rather a reflection on us in not getting a new manager in place. However, Maciej does not apportion blame – he just wants the club to be successful.
Captain David Cassidy was next interim manager for their 4-2 defeat to Drogheda United on May 8. The Irish Mirror reported he wouldn't be the only person involved in team selection.
It’s also believed that chairman Denis O’Connor will be involved in team affairs for the clash after it emerged that Trevor Croly won’t be coming in – at least for the time being.
Trevor Croly was appointed manager on May 11th. He was handed a three year contract.
I’ve not rushed into the decision as we spoke for a long time and have had numerous meetings. It’s slightly different to some of the jobs I’ve had recently but it’s a fantastic challenge.
At the start of July rumours began circulating that Trevor Croly was to resign as manager, less than 2 months into his 36 month contract. The Irish Independent reported that Croly had resigned in disgust at players wages being late.
“The trust has gone,” a source close to Croly said, “and when that happens it becomes almost impossible for Trevor to work with and motivate staff and players.”
Manager Three Again
On the 4th of July Bray Wanderers beat Limerick 1-0 in Markets Field with David Cassidy again taking the managerial reigns.
Correction on team sheet. David Cassidy is player manager
— Bray Wanderers FC (@BrayWanderers) July 4, 2015
That was the first acknowledgement from Bray Wanderers that Croly was not manager. Bray released a club statement on July 5th but didn't mention the manager (more on this later). On July 6 a joint statement from Croly and Bray was released
Trevor Croly said “It has been a privilege to manage this team and this group of players. Unfortunately, I am unable to continue in my role for reasons which must remain between the club and myself. I will be making no further comment on the matter and wish everyone at the club well for the future.” Bray Wanderers chairman Denis O’Connor said “It’s unfortunate that we are losing Trevor at this time given the recent upturn in the club’s fortunes but we depart on good terms and we will not be commenting further.“
On July 7th Bray Wanderers announced their 3rd full time manager, and 5th manager in total, of this 2015 season. Mick Cooke was handed an 18 month contract.
We look forward to getting Bray Wanderers FC back focussed on the football pitch
Bray have won their last 3 games and sit in 7th place in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division.
Off the field timeline
On the 22nd December, Bray Wanderers held a press conference where they announced that the McGettigans Group had
agreed to purchase a majority shareholding in the club, with the new owners set to complete the takeover within weeks
Bray Wanderers launched a new club crest and announced a new deal to wear Nike branded kits in 2015. All very positive news for the club as it entered it's 30th year as a League of Ireland club.
On January 25th the Irish Mail on Sunday reported the club was being investigated by the Fraud squad after the club claimed more than €425,000 in state grants for work to be done at the club's ground. The Mail state that the money did not appear in the club's account nor was it registered on the club's assets register. The club responded with a statement and refuted all allegations. They went further too.
Regrettably, over the past few weeks the Club has become aware of attempts to prevent the proposed new administration taking place and canvassing the Club to engage in a commercial property development of the Carlisle Grounds. The Club do not accept that this is the way forward. Bray Wanderers are committed to keeping Premier League football in the town ,to keeping the Carlisle Grounds open for football and prevent it falling into the hands of property developers, and to move forward with the exciting plans for the coming season and beyond with new investors, local youth and football clubs and the involvement of an enthusiastic community.
On 17th February, the FAI announced the recipients of club licences for the 2015 SSE Airtricity League season. Bray didn't receive one at first.
The Licensing Committee has reserved a decision on the remaining Licences until next Monday 23rd February after seeking a further clarification from Bray Wanderers in relation to its application
A week later. Bray received a licence for the Premier Division.
Bray announced a "Night of Comedy" fundraiser to be held at club sponsor The Royal Hotel with PJ Gallagher and Barry Murphy. The night doesn't happen. Alan Mathews resigned. His statement mentions delays to payments.
Chairman Denis O'Connor spoke to Today FM but he didn't really clear up much, due to "impending legal action".
A week later the club release a statement saying they had resolved all differences.
Bray Wanderers is pleased to announce that it has settled its issues with Alan Matthews and his management team, and that no action of any legal nature will be taken,
Bray Wanderers also acknowledges that there was a breakdown in communication and it is determined that such an issue will not arise again in the future.
The Irish Daily Mirror reported that the McGettigan group were still trying to finalise the purchase of the club and if they were successful, they may re-instate Alan Mathews. They wrote about the Chairman has alienated some within the club.
Denis O’Connor is chairman, his brother Martin O’Connor the general manager, and they’ve made some unpopular changes since coming on board last summer.
For instance, a number of key volunteers who gave decades of on-site service at the Carlisle Grounds were told this season that they were no longer needed.
The May 19 edition of the Bray People reported that the McGettigan deal had "fallen through"
'Sadly the deal has not gone through for reasons beyond our control and in spite of the agreed monies being invested,' said the McGettigans. 'As a result we are now taking legal advice on our position. McGettigans has tried to bring the deal forward with the best of intentions of Bray Wanderers and the fans at heart. We will continue to make ourselves available and open to talks with the club shareholder.'
Shareholder John Deering, who was director from 1995 to 2011, said that this was sad news and that the involvement of the McGettigan group had been 'a bright spot of hope.'
Mr Deering said that while he owns a small percentage of around 500,000 shares, he and some other shareholders own the 10 per cent required to call an extraordinary general meeting, which they have asked the board for on a number of occasions.
The article noted that the announcement of Trevor Croly as manager was made at a hotel in Ballsbridge, not in Bray.
Former director John Deering spoke to East Coast FM after the McGettigan's confirmed they were not proceeding with the purchase.
Among the issues he touched on is that with 2 other shareholders they had 10% of shares and therefore enough to call an EGM.
I've sent a letter to Mr O'Connor, Mr Kelly and Mr Hannigan and I've asked them would they resign.
He tried to explain the share situation but admitted that was one of the reasons why he was calling for the EGM. He also spoke about a proposed stadium development that he had brought to the club in the past.
The Chairman was interviewed by RTE as Croly was appointed.
He brushed off talk of an EGM and dismissed any worries about the McGettigan group pulling out.
He spoke to East Coast FM the following day.
He stated that the McGettigan's invested €30,000 by way of a "loan" and explained that the Group was not due any shares as they had not delivered on their part of the agreement. He didn't elaborate on what that was. He addressed John Deering's proposal.
I'm sorry, I'm not interested in a property deal
Things then calmed down somewhat. For a couple of weeks anyway.
work flying along in the Carlisle this afternoon pic.twitter.com/taOZGpD0Ca
— Bray Wanderers FC (@BrayWanderers) June 4, 2015
Work began on the Carlisle Grounds. The club didn't announce what was being done though. Two days later it was announced that the Carlisle Grounds would be the new home of Rugby League Ireland.
After Trevor Croly's resignation at the start of July speculation about the future of Bray increased dramatically.
Immediately following their 1-0 win away to Limerick the players released a statement through the PFAI
Statement from the Bray Wanderers players. pic.twitter.com/CXOGtVMOJL
— PFA Ireland (@PFAIOfficial) July 4, 2015
The chairman responded with his own statement.
There were problems with three players payments this week which was due to a clerical issue which the Club are investigating. These problems were sorted out within 24 hours of my becoming aware of them.
The following day they released another statement about Croly leaving. Mr O'Connor appeared on RTE's Soccer Republic. We reported on his performance here and how some of the player felt about the criticism levelled at them. The following evening captain, and stand in manager, David Cassidy spoke to Newstalk's "Off The Ball" on their regular LOI slot. Cassidy didn't hold back. He stated that there had been problems with every Bray payment this season and openly wondered if the club would be better off without the current administration. Mick Cooke was appointed that evening. Bray released yet another statement denying that an EGM would take place.
The circulation of this material has been carried out by a shareholder who has 2.2 per cent of the shares of the Company. Over 90 per cent of the shareholders have rejected his previous plans to sell the Carlisle Grounds to developers from the UK.
The notice regarding the EGM had been posted on their website but had quickly been removed. Shareholder, and the man most closely associated with Bray Wanderers for the past 25 years, Pat Devlin spoke to East Coast FM. He confirmed that the club still owed former players Darren Quigley and Kevin O'Connor money and that he believed the EGM was lawfully called for. Quigley had been very actively campaigning for his money to be repaid on twitter. It was reported on by the Wicklow People in January. On the same day that O'Connor appeared on Soccer Republic, the Irish Times reported on John Deering's challenge to the proposed buy-out of share by Denis O'Connor and a company called Millway Dawn. Millway Dawn were offering 0.05 cent per share Bray Wanderers had accumulated losses of €1 million at the end of 2013. The accounts for that year show it had net liabilities of €202,898 while its auditors questioned its ability to continue as a going concern. The Bray Supporters Club released their own statement expressing their concerns at the direction of the club.
Over the past number of months, under the stewardship of the current management, the club's name has been sullied and we as a supporters club feel it is time for change. The stated objective of the new regime was to "launch a community based club". This we feel has been hampered by the continuous drip feed of bad press. The alienation of longstanding supporters has led to an aura of mistrust and we, as a supporters club, feel it is our role to express our dissatisfaction with the direction the club is currently heading.
The FAI, through league director Fran Gavin, dismissed the idea that the FAI should get involved.
"All we need to do is to make sure their governors are correct, they stick to the budgets and make sure that they are financially prudent in what they do. We need to make sure they can compete and be sustainable.
"We've held discussions with the club and the people who want to take over. They've made it very clear that they want the club to be embedded in the Wicklow community and in Bray. That's what they want to do.
"To us, they've shown that they are trying to do that. They've improved the match-day experience in Bray. It's much better than it used to be and they are getting better at it," he added.
That improved match day experience wasn't in evidence the following Saturday as a protest organised by Bray Supporters took place before their game against Derry. The EGM called for by Deering happened earlier that day in Arklow. Following that meeting Deery sent documents to the CRO stating that he was now a director of the club. 2 days later Bray's owners were granted a temporary injunction against John Deering, Darren Quigley and Paul Lennon (who had an agreement to sell advertising for Bray) from "presenting themselves in an official capacity on behalf of the club".
In an affidavit Bray Chairman Denis O'Connor claimed that minority shareholder Deering was engaged in unlawful activities, such as falsely representing himself to be a director of the company and claiming that he was about to take charge of the team Saturday's League of Ireland game between Bray Wanderers and Derry City was said to be put in jeopardy when Deering arrived at the ground in the morning with a group claiming to be taking charge of the club's affairs. After discussions Mr Deering agreed to leave allowing the game to go ahead.
Bray Wanderers Limited is pleased to advise that the principal investor coming into the Club is Gerry Mulvey. Gerry owns 80% of Milway Dawn Limited with the balance of 20% held by Denis O’Connor. Milway currently holds 92% of Bray Wanderers Limited. Gerry will be joining the Boards of both Companies with Denis remaining as Chairman.
Why was it release on facebook rather than the club website?
The club website is still out of action due to 3rd party interference.We hope to have it fully functional again next week
— Bray Wanderers FC (@BrayWanderers) July 18, 2015
The reasons became clear when the legal action between Bray and Misters Deering, Quigley and Lennon was resolved.
Mr Deering also agreed to delete all data in his possession obtained through accessing the company’s email account server and website system. On the Irish Times Business Podcast, it was explained that Deery had obtained the log ins (etc) from Eircom by presenting himself as a Director. The IT's Emmet Malone profile Gerry Mulvey from his time with St Patrick's Athletic and as a property developer.
According to the Irish Times, Bray have committed to
not seek to acquire the team’s grounds in the Co Wicklow town without having delivered a new location for the club.
For many Bray fans, this commitment does not go far enough as it implies that the goal of the board is to move the club away from the Carlisle Grounds, if they can provide accommodation elsewhere. The IT mention that the Carlisle Grounds location beside the DART station is pretty much the prime spot for LUAS extensions and more.
So here we are. We now know that 92% of Bray Wanderers is owned by Millway Dawn (which is in turn 80% owned by Gerry Mulvey and 20% by Denis O'Connor). The Irish Times' Colm Keena profiled Mr O'Connor and his links to the Moriarty Tribunal and Doncaster Rovers too. Their website hasn't been updated since July 10th.
If the Irish Times is correct, then we know that the board's intention is to develop a facility for the club away from the Carlisle Grounds. How that gets done, and who else will be involved is still up in the air.
It's a messy situation, but we think we've covered everything. We hope we've provided some clarification for you.