The FAI has described Athlone Town’s inability to field a team at the RSC for Friday evening’s first division fixture against Waterford United as “totally unacceptable,” and said that the club will be charged under its disciplinary regulations for failing to fulfil the fixture, something that is likely to result in the awarding of the points involved to their opponents and, of course, a fine.
Obtaining payment of the latter may be a problem given the financial situation at the club over a number of months. The problem this week resulted from the failure of the club to pay its amateur players - some of whom are due as little as €20 a game - their expenses over the three week period.
The wider financial difficulties go back much further, however, and there angry scenes after the recent Drogheda United game when an official at that club, who had previously been at Athlone, publicly remonstrated with Athlone officials over money owed from last season.
The club also had to postpone a game against Shelbourne early in the season when its financial situation had left it reliant for power in the ground on a generator that broke down.
Attendances at the club, which has just four professional players – the only squad members who made themselves available to travel yesterday – and a very small budget, have been poor for some time and have been made worse recently by dissatisfaction amongst supporters with chairman John Hayden, who has faced calls for his resignation.
The break in the season now gives a window for some of the issues to be addressed and it is not clear if Hayden will depart.
"We take this matter extremely seriously and will be charging Athlone for failing to fulfil the fixture and for bringing the game into disrepute," said the league director Fran Gavin in an FAI statement.
“This is totally unacceptable. To be notified on the afternoon of an SSE Airtricity League fixture that a club cannot field a team is simply not good enough. We will be meeting with Athlone Town over the weekend to discuss this serious matter.”
The postponement is a significant blow too for Waterford who have themselves been in very considerable financial difficulty over the past few months.