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Friday 20 September 2019

New wages row adds to blues for FAI

STRUGGLES: Limerick FC chairman Pat O’Sullivan. Pic: Sportsfile
STRUGGLES: Limerick FC chairman Pat O’Sullivan. Pic: Sportsfile

The FAI are facing further scrutiny of their club licencing process after First Division side Limerick FC were unable to pay their players the wages they were owed, just two months after the club were awarded a licence for the 2019 season.

On the field of play, things had been looking up for the Blues, who won four games in a row in March/April and were level on points with then league leaders Longford Town just three weeks ago, though form has since dropped off with just one point from the last two, the Blues beaten 2-0 by Shelbourne on Friday night.

But off the field it's more serious as the squad, which contains only five professional players, had been paid just half of their wages for March and were due to be paid the balance last Friday.

On Saturday, those players contacted their union, the PFAI, to update them that the money had not arrived, and the PFAI plan to hold talks with the squad this week before deciding on a course of action.

The FAI's licencing department will now be asked to explain how Limerick have been unable to pay wages so early in the season.

Limerick were one of only two League of Ireland clubs to issue a statement of support for former FAI CEO John Delaney, a statement signed by chairman Pat O'Sullivan.

Club licencing was already under scrutiny since Waterford FC were denied a licence by UEFA to compete in the Europa League next summer: Waterford owner Lee Power said the club had been "misled" by the FAI as they had been "given assurances that the licence would be granted".

Rea Walshe, currently in situ as interim CEO of the FAI, was previously in charge of the club licencing process. Before the season started, FAI League Director Fran Gavin said "we don't see any significant issues around Waterford that would prohibit them from getting a licence" from UEFA.

The Limerick matter is complicated by the fact that the majority of the Blues squad are registered as amateurs and are only paid expenses, just five of the squad classed as professionals who earn a part-time wage. That's a wider issue which the PFAI plan to raise in the ongoing discussions about how the beleaguered FAI can emerge from crisis and rebuild confidence.

"Two of the Premier Division clubs currently have players registered as amateurs who are only paid expenses, we find this hard to accept in a professional league," said PFAI General Secretary Stephen McGuinness.

Last week, FAI interim CEO Rea Walshe and League Director Fran Gavin held a three-hour meeting with the PFAI's general secretary McGuinness, who stated that he had not held a meeting with previous CEO John Delaney for six years.

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