O'Driscoll steps in at Wanderers
New chairman wants Bray 'to be proud of club' again
After a pretty heated week in the ongoing dispute between the FAI and the PFAI, sparked by the situation at Bray Wanderers, long-suffering supporters of the club can only hope that things cool down with news that the controversy-ridden club has been the subject of a takeover.
On the field, Bray possibly hit rock bottom with last week's 6-0 loss to Bohemians, described on these pages by Bray defender Conor Kenna as "embarrassing". That was the culmination of two months of non-stop issues for the Premier Divison's bottom side, a period where the players had gone without their wages.
That led to what is now a Cold War between the FAI and the PFAI, more volleys served in their verbal battles yesterday with a row over an FAI proposal to establish a fund, the FAI and PFAI each contributing €150,000, from which unpaid player wages in the league can be sourced.
But the sale of the club by Gerry Mulvey to St Joesph's Boys chairman Niall O'Driscoll, a partner in the insurance firm O'Driscoll O'Neill, could be a fresh start for a club which has been in the news, for all the wrong reasons, over the last 12 months.
"I'm excited to get going with Bray Wanderers as I want everyone in Bray to be proud of this club again," O'Driscoll said.
"I want to see kids all around Bray wearing the club's jersey and coming to games.
"I've been involved in football my whole life and this is a way of giving something back. I want to return Bray to former glories and transform it into a club that represents the local community and all of north Wicklow.
"There is already a fantastic academy structure in place at the club and the teams at Under 19, Under 17 and Under 15 level in the SSE Airtricity League have been very successful, so I want to build on that and work towards a bright future."
The FAI have welcomed the takeover and while Fran Gavin, the senior official in Abbotstown with responsibility for the SSE Airtricity League, says the association has been given assurances that the players will be paid their wages, he has also issued a stout defence of the FAI's much-maligned proposal on the fund.
This time last week, it was not at all certain that tonight's game between Bray Wanderers and Cork City at the Carlisle Grounds would go ahead, the Bray squad unconvinced by promises that their wages for July, due to be paid today, would come through.
But a lot has happened in the last seven days besides Bray's hammering by Bohs, a volley of statements and counter-statements between the FAI and the PFAI with words like "ludicrous", "mind boggling" and "insulting" used.
"While building a club that is sustainable into the long-term represents the main priority, our immediate aim is to put the recent turbulence behind us by helping the team to retain Premier Division status," a club statement said.
And the Cork game goes ahead as the FAI say it's happy with promises by Bray.
"The endgame is getting the players paid. We have been given assurances, we are confident of that and I think we will see that the players will be paid," Gavin says of the Bray case.
The PFAI has had a very strained relationship with their landlords, the FAI, for some time, but that's been heightened in the last 18 months, since the union backed the players from the Ireland women's national team in their dispute with the FAI.
Relations are so bad that PFAI general secretary Stephen McGuinness said on radio yesterday that he had not held any sort of official meeting or conversation with John Delaney in over two years, even though the two men work out of the same office at FAI HQ.
The FAI set things alight with a statement on Wednesday evening, proposing that the FAI and PFAI each contribute half of a €300,000 fund which would be used to pay the wages of players if the clubs play for were having financial problems.
The PFAI, in response, said it welcomed "the proposal of the fund" but greatly objected to how the idea was made public by the FAI without consulting with the PFAI. The union also stated that their budget was a fraction of that of the FAI and they lacked the financial means to contribute the proposed €150,000.
Speaking yesterday, Gavin made no apologies for the FAI's approach and turned up the heat by claiming "absolutely" that the union had the finances to contribute.
"The only matter here is that the players get paid and get comfort going forward. That's what we've done, that's what we're trying to do and we await a response from the PFAI," Gavin said, defending the FAI ploy of issuing a statement before putting it to the PFAI.
"It makes sure the players know that the FAI are trying to make sure there's comfort going forward and to the clubs 'here's what we're doing, here's the commitment from the board and we await a response from the PFAI'.
"If I was in that position, it's a good news story. I see the PFAI welcomed it, but I see their issue might be 'why do we have to contribute?' We're fully aware the PFAI have the resources, and more, to contribute to a fund like that.
"We're trying to get to a point where there's comfort for the players and their families around wages. That's what we're trying to do. We're trying to bring everyone along. The intentions to do it are absolutely honourable and we're being open and we'll get a solution."