Dundalk chairman unrepentant over stinging assessment of FAI

Hulsizer’s email to fellow Airtricity League clubs fiercely critical of national association

Dundalk celebrate their latest Airtricity League Premier Division success last October at Oriel Park. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Dundalk celebrate their latest Airtricity League Premier Division success last October at Oriel Park. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Dundalk chairman Bill Hulsizer says that he stands over the comments made in an email sent to senior officials at other Airticity League clubs over the weekend but that he will only elaborate on charges made against the FAI once the recipients have had the opportunity to reply to what he describes as a “cry for help”.

Hulsizer, who succeeded Mike Treacy as the club’s chairman at the end of last year, is scathing in the email, which The Irish Times has seen.

“Dundalk FC and myself have been lied to, stolen from, insulted and disrespected by the FAI,” he says in an extraordinary attack. “I am sure many of you feel the same, and have suffered similar treatment. Thursday’s meeting has convinced me that the FAI are masters’ of spin and want everyone to focus on the future and forget about the past.

He goes on to describe “the FAI of the past,” as “a failed business model,” and contends that while John Delaney is universally held responsible, others, some of them still active and influential at the association, must take a share of the blame for some of the current failings.

Ultimately, he suggests that the tone of one of the league’s recent working group meetings and some of the documentation circulated after another; “indicates the FAI intends to treat the clubs of Ireland as subservient to the FAI.

“They [the FAI] have not earned nor do they deserve that right,” he says, adding that “We, Dundalk FC, are prepared to work with (not for) the FAI to promote the League of Ireland, or to challenge the FAI publicly in all the forums available (Fifa, Uefa, Irish Governmen and most importantly the Irish people).”

He concludes by asking owners of other clubs to support his position.

Contacted for a comment, Hulsizer said: “I will stand behind everything that I have said there I don’t think it is fair to my fellow club owners to say anything more until they have had a chance to consider the email.”

Behind closed doors, the American is said to have been repeatedly critical of the association in recent months and is understood to feel aggrieved, on behalf of his club, with regard to the way Stephen Kenny was hired by the FAI, the association’s much more recent interest in Ruairdhi Higgins and other aspects of the financial relationship between the two.

He appears to favour a complete break by clubs with the association and may well have been angered by an exchange at the working group meeting of April 23rd during which, according to the minutes: “It was clarified that the bottom line is the FAI would not agree in any circumstances that an independent structure will be set up to run the Premier Division commercially; it has to be seen as under the subsidiary of the FAI.”

Brand awareness

He also expresses irritation with regard to the early stages of the process to draw up a new participation agreement to replace one that was, during Delaney’s time in charge of the association, widely seen as an instrument for suppressing any criticism, or even questions, from clubs.

Privately, though, senior officials in the association’s current leadership have accepted that the old participation agreement was entirely unfair and the suggestion has been that there is a willingness to move towards something far more equitable, with the end of June mentioned as a target date.

Officials from some other clubs said yesterday that they believe the association’s representatives at the meetings have come across as sincere on this point and that the process seems to be progressing quite well.

Figures given to the meeting of the 23rd, meanwhile, suggest that the FAI has been making a profit of just under €300,000 on running the league with Uefa funding of 1.045 million, sponsorship of €375,000, television revenues of €341,000, Streaming income of €110,000 and €200,000 in fines more than enough to cover the cost of prize money, administration and other expenses. Delaney had always claimed the association subsidised the league and refused to allow the clubs see the figures.

The clubs have also been shown the results of market research which suggests significantly increased interest levels in the league –up by around 20 per cent since 2016 – with the senior club game here enjoying good brand awareness and a positive image among the population at large.

The association has committed to working with clubs on a number of fronts, including investment in stadiums and other facilities as well as commercial revenues and the development of the women’s and underage games.

Its own revenues seem increasingly likely to be further hit by the Covid-19 crisis, however, with growing doubts about the prospect of the Nations League games scheduled for the autumn going ahead and at the very least there seems very likely to be severe restrictions on attendances.

Interim CEO Gary Owens recently acknowledged that the three home games – against Finland, Wales and Bulgaria – are financially important to the FAI but in an interview with this newspaper in recent days, Dr Cillian De Gascun, a member of the National Public Health Emergency Team, was asked about whether he envisaged England and France being able to come to Dublin for international rugby matches next spring.

“In my own head, I would like to think the Six Nations can happen,” he said, “but I don’t see how at this point.”

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