The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has responded to criticism of its decision not to sanction a tie between Limerick FC and Barcelona.
The Association has been strongly criticised for not sanctioning Limerick FC's application to play a friendly against the Catalan giants on 31 July.
In a lengthy statement issued this evening, the FAI said that: 'Any suggestion that our decision was made for reasons other than the good of game is simply untrue.'
The Association also claimed that even with FAI permission the Limerick FC v Barcelona game might not take place.
It also reiterated that the FAI's position on the fixture is that third party agreements mean in cannot sanction games in stadia with capacities over 15,000, that the FAI itself is in negotiations with Barcelona over a visit to the Aviva Stadium, and that the proposed date (31 July) is not compatible with the Airtricity League fixture timetable.
Limerick FC responded to the FAI statement within hours of its release.
The club claimed that the FAI had never made a capacity limit of 15,000 known to clubs and that when communicating the initial decision to refuse the fixture, the FAI only made reference to the fixture clash.
It added that the FAI had sanctioned fixtures between Airtricity League members in the past and claimed that the FAI's claim that it had to act in the interests of the League as a whole and therefore could not sanction matches to benefit individual clubs was contradicted by the fact that it had sanctioned multiple matches between individual clubs and visiting teams.
It also claimed that no negotiations between Barcelona and the FAI were taking place.
FULL TEXT OF FAI STATEMENT:
FAI statement in relation to recent press coverage
A large amount has been written since Friday about the FAI’s position in relation to friendly matches and in the interests of clarity, the Association wishes to confirm the following:
1) The sole objective of the FAI is to develop, promote and foster the game in Ireland. Any commercial venture entered into by the FAI is designed purely to fund the development of the game at all levels throughout the country. This includes the Airtricity League which is funded by the tune of €5m p.a. for the benefit of all clubs. Any suggestion that our decision was made for reasons other than the good of game is simply untrue.
2) Unlike commercial agents, the FAI is not in the business of profiteering from such games. Any profit the FAI does generate is delivered straight back into the development of the game. One of the reasons why we have entered into an arrangement with a commercial partner in relation to friendly games is to protect and maximise the value of our rights, to benefit the game as a whole. If games were to be organised outside of this arrangement, profit made by any agent would be lost to the game. For example, with one club the Association had agreed a price for a visit, only for an agency in Ireland to offer double the amount. This is inflationary and not in the interests of football since any profit generated by that agent would not be reinvested in the game.
3) Limerick FC are portraying as a certainty that with FAI permission the game would come to Limerick. We are aware that even with FAI permission (which in any case, we are unable to grant), FC Barcelona has not made any decision to come to Limerick. We have spoken to high level officials at the club who have confirmed this and we are also know that international match agents are offering FC Barcelona to other clubs in other countries on the same date, July 31.
4) The FAI has already made clear the reasons why it did not grant permission to Limerick FC to play Barcelona on July 31 because a) the Association has third party commercial agreements which prevent it from granting the game in stadium with a capacity in excess of 15,000 and b) the FAI is in negotiations with FC Barcelona itself in relation to a visit of Aviva Stadium and c) because the Association is obliged to retain ownership of the July 31 date because of Airtricity League fixtures. Limerick FC were aware of all of the above prior to making their announcement on Thursday evening.
5) Under FIFA rules, FAI rules and under the participation agreement which all clubs signed, no club can arrange any match without the prior consent of the national governing body. The clubs were reminded of this in writing in May last year.
6) Under the participation agreement which all clubs signed, the FAI is entitled to enter any commercial agreements which it sees beneficial to the game. The game Limerick FC have referred to would benefit just one club. The FAI is obliged to operate in the interests of the Airtricity League as a whole.
7) Since the sponsorship revenues from the League do not come close to covering the €5m p.a. it costs the FAI to run it, revenues from international matches and club friendly games (e.g. Airticity League XI v Manchester United) are used by the FAI to fund the running of it.
8) It has been suggested that the FAI is not happy to grant friendly games to Airticity League clubs. This is not true. In recent times alone, we have granted permission to Celtic, Newcastle, Liverpool, Wolves, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Hull City and Ipswich Town to play Airtricity League clubs and we will continue to do so.
9) It was suggested in one newspaper that the FAI declined a request from Bohemian FC to play FC Barcelona. This is not true and the club have confirmed that.
10) The manager of Bohemian FC stated in today’s newspapers that if they were to be drawn for a Champions League game on August 4, they would play it regardless. The FAI has already met with Bohemian FC and the other clubs in European competition two weeks ago and at this meeting we explained that if there were two Dublin clubs in European completion on that week, then one game would take place on August 3 and the other on August 5.
FULL TEXT OF LIMERICK FC RESPONSE TO FAI STATEMENT
Limerick FC would like to clarify certain matters in relation to the statement released by the FAI, today, Monday May 17th.
Firstly, Limerick FC refute completely the implication in Point 4 of the FAI Statement that Limerick FC were aware on Thursday of last week of ‘third party commercial agreements which prevent it from granting the game in stadium with a capacity in excess of 15,000’. This is completely untrue and the first mention of a capacity restriction of 15,000 was made today in the FAI statement . Additionally the club wishes to reiterate that the official correspondence received from the Airtricity League Director made only reference to a clash of league fixtures and no other reasons were given in that correspondence.
With regards to point 3 it is completely within the rights of FC Barcelona to negotiate with other parties at this stage as Limerick FC were not in the position to sign the heads of agreement contract with FC Barcelona as a result of the failure of the FAI to sanction the game. Had the game been sanctioned the club would have been in the position to sign this contract last week and thus negate the need for FC Barcelona to look at alternative arrangements.
With regards to point 6 which refers to Limerick FC being the only club to benefit from this friendly stating, ‘The game Limerick FC have referred to would benefit just one club. The FAI is obliged to operate in the interests of the Airtricity League as a whole.’ It contradicts point 8 where the FAI have acknowledged, ‘In recent times alone, we have granted permission to Celtic, Newcastle, Liverpool, Wolves, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Hull City and Ipswich Town to play Airtricity League clubs and we will continue to do so.’ These stated friendly matches have benefited fellow league members individually. Limerick FC fully support our fellow league clubs right to raise much needed income in this manner and call on the FAI to clarify this point to ensure clubs can continue to benefit financially from such games.
Limerick FC would also like to confirm that there is no negotiations currently taking place with the FAI and no negotiations are planned at this stage.