Monday 20 November 2017

Aidan Fitzmaurice: 13 years on from Saipan, punitive FAI are shooting the messenger

Roy Keane in Saipan back in 2002
Roy Keane in Saipan back in 2002

For a game that's meant to be played on grass, the people who run football this country spend a lot of time with their heads in the sand.

Apart from some truly comical refereeing decisions, one issue that has united League of Ireland people - players, manager, fans - this season is the state of pitches. For various reasons, many of the surfaces are in extremely poor condition. Players risk injury by playing on dangerous pitches and supporters pay good money into grounds which have 1940s-era facilities.

Except you're not allowed say that.

Following a league game this season, the visiting manager was critical of the playing surface (one of his players suffered an injury in the warm-up) and the appalling dressing rooms, and said so publicly.

So what was the outcome? Was there a punishment on the home club for not having a ground up to scratch? Were they fined, docked points or publicly admonished by the FAI?

Nope. The manager in question was hauled before the FAI' s disciplimary committee to face two charges: bringing the game into disrepute and making disparaging comments about the league, and he was given a warning.

For fear of the manager in question and his club getting further punishment from the FAI's disciplinary body, The Herald has chosen not to name them. And, knowing how punitive these disciplinary matters can become, we have even opted not to name the 'stadium' in question as identifying the ground could easily reveal who is involved.

This is Ireland in 2015, not Romania in 1983 and yet honest, hard-working people who deeply care about football in this country is run are afraid to speak out. But, 13 years on from Saipan, we'd love to know what the Ireland assistant manager (an FAI employee) thinks of how his bosses treat people. Shamefully.

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