herald

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Another fine mess for Bray

Talk of North Korea and revolt from Bray chairman has gone viral - but fans of the club won't be laughing

A general view of the Carlisle Grounds in Bray, Co Wicklow. Photo: Sportsfile
A general view of the Carlisle Grounds in Bray, Co Wicklow. Photo: Sportsfile

Across Europe at lunchtime yesterday, football fans who previously had no idea about the League of Ireland or Bray Wanderers FC, had reason to giggle over their coffee.

Bray Wanderers, a side who have done well this season and could even qualify for Europe but have been in the news for all the wrong reasons for the last month, issued a press release that sparked laughter across the globe.

Just 484 words but every one of them a gem. The purpose of the press release was to state the club's view that the financial cloud hanging over Wanderers - it's only weeks since the then chairman admitted the club was "not viable" and had only enough money left to pay wages for one more week - was gone.

"Bray Wanderers FC can now officially confirm the club is financially stable for the foreseeable future and have a vision for the future unrivalled by any other Football Club in Ireland," the statement, signed by newly-appointed chairman Gerry Mulvey, said.

It got worse. The statement twice referred to the regime in Pyongyang, claiming that "Wicklow County has unfortunately now attained the accolade of being the North Korea of Ireland for business". From nowhere there came a reference to Conor McGregor.

Bray made the bold claim, along the lines of Kim Jong-un, that "a revolution of Football is going to start and Bray Wanderers will be the leaders not just for Wicklow but for Ireland in this revolt" where they will find and develop the next Roy and Robbie Keane.

Wanderers, who sold 59 season tickets this year and admit their average home support is 125-165, boast they will have "an academy to rival the best in the world".

For long-suffering supporters of the Seagulls, who have expressed serious concerns about the way the club has been heading since a takeover two years ago, this is a sick joke.

The biggest worry was the statement by chairman Mulvey that Wanderers planned to leave the Carlisle Grounds; the land there would be rezoned, and funds from the sale of the site would allow the club build a new ground (though Mulvey didn't say where).

Once this is done, and Bray have a world-class facility (which will compete with Manchester United and Barcelona, Mulvey says): "we will hand the facility and sustainable business over to a trust who will protect the club and the development of Football in Wicklow & Ireland long after our collective lifetimes".

Wicklow County Council moved swiftly to state that the Carlisle Grounds, which they own with Wanderers as mere tenants, is zoned for sporting use and added that the council were "surprised" by the club's statement.

All along, sceptical Bray fans feared that the long-term aim here was a land grab, an attempt to move the club out of its home, build on the land, with the club left in limbo.

And there could also be hell to pay from one of the main factions within the football community there. Only last month, a partnership between Wanderers and schoolboy club St Joseph's Boys was trumpeted, FAI CEO John Delaney in attendance for the launch. Delaney praised the Bray/Joey's project as "the first dedicated underage football academy following FAI guidelines".

Yesterday's utterly bizarre statement by Bray made no mention of St Joseph's Boys.

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