Sunday 22 September 2019

UEFA probe likely as Waterford slam decision

Blues owner Lee Power. Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
Blues owner Lee Power. Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

UEFA a may be called in to examiner the FAI's club licencing system after the latest embarrassment for the association saw Waterford protest about their removal from the Europa League.

And FAI League Director Fran Gavin may be asked to explain his comments in pre-season where, when asked if the club's arrangements with creditors were enough to satisfy UEFA, he said "absolutely".

The FAI also have questions to answer from the club as Blues owner Lee Power claims the club were "totally misled by the FAI" and "given assurances".

The Blues had been planning for a return to Europe for the first time since 1986, having finished fourth in the Premier Division last season.

The Munster club had applied for an exemption from UEFA to allow them get around around a rule which states that clubs must b e in business for at least three years before they can compete in UEFA competition.

Waterford had held a series of meetings with UEFA to try and get clearance to play in the Europa, but on Thursday night the FAI confirmed that UEFA had denied them permission to compete, and their Europa slot will pass to St Patrick's Athletic.

But Blues owner Lee Power has already lodged an appeal with UEFA and promised to seek compensation, arguing that the club were given promises by the FAI about their European slot.

"Everyone at Waterford FC is deeply shocked and saddened at the news that we have been expelled from playing in the Europa League this season. We feel we have been totally misled by the FAI and were given assurances throughout this five-month process by them that the licence would be granted. We also had club visits by UEFA Delegates during this period of which no issues were raised," Power said.

"As a club, we entered into substantial commercial agreements and invested heavily into the team and also budgeted for the qualification money due in November. This will now have a serious financial impact on the club going forward.

"The circumstances to which this decision has been made and the events over the last week are unclear and dubious, bearing in mind representations made to us and assurances given.

"We will be asking for a full investigation into the FAI handling of this matter.

"I have instructed my UK Lawyers to lodge an immediate appeal with UEFA and will pursue any legal avenue we have with regards to compensation and/or any wrong doing," his statement added.

Concerns over Waterford's ability to play in Europe were flagged in pre-season, due to the fact that the club were renamed and rebranded at the start of the 2017, making it doubtful they would meet the three-year criteria. Derry City were denied a place in Europe in 2012 as their new operating company was only two years old.

"Waterford will go through the process that Derry went through with UEFA where they have to make a case for licensing because they are a new entity there but at the moment we don't see any significant issues around Waterford that would prohibit them from getting a licence," FAI official Gavin said in February, before the season began.

Asked about a case taken by former manager Roddy Collins against the Blues over his sacking in 2016, a case which went before the Labour Relations Commission due to unpaid wages, Gavin said that issue had been dealt with by virtue of the fact that the club gained a licence to compete domestically.

"They've got a licence so whatever arrangement has been made there has been acceptable to licensing," Gavin said. If UEFA do launch a probe of the affair, they will ask FAI interim CEO Rea Walshe to comment, as she was on the FAI's independent licencing committee.

Reports claim that Power, a former Ireland U21 player, could withdraw his financial support for the club on the back of the UEFA decision. Waterford lost €526,000 last season, according to their accounts.

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