FAI fails to provide facilities or kits for out of contract players

PFAI’s Stephen McGuinness told by Fran Gavin that usual support wouldn’t be provided

The Professional Footballers’ Association of Ireland (PFAI) has started its annual training camp for out of contract players but without the support it usually receives from the Football Association of Ireland.

The FAI has declined to provide training facilities or kit as it previously has every year since the scheme was initiated almost a decade ago.

PFAI general secretary Stephen McGuinness said he had not been given any formal reason for the change of policy by the FAI, but that he was told last Friday in a meeting with FAI director of competitions Fran Gavin that there would be no support provided this year to the scheme.

The programme is intended to help unemployed players secure deals for the coming season.


“For eight years the FAI have supported the programme with kit, balls, water, equipment . . . they provided us with the AUL [complex in clonshaugh], before Abbotstown was built, and that was all free of charge and we have used Abbotstown for the last few years.

“I wrote to the FAI in regard to keeping that relationship going, I met with them on Friday and they just told us that it was unavailable to the PFAI. None of it was available.”

The footballers’ union has since received help from Dundalk-based kit supplier CX+ which has provided training gear, while Bohemians have loaned balls and Dundalk FC and Shamrock Rovers have promised to make pitches available for the games that are played towards the end of the camp, usually just after Christmas. But the union is obliged to rent pitches at Sports Campus Ireland for the training sessions themselves.

“It’s €120 per session for us to use the facility here. That’s money that could be used better as regards to education for the players or whatever. Or even if you’re paying the FAI, the money is staying in the game where as now it’s going out to the third party,” said McGuinness.

The association’s move appears to be the latest sign of a deteriorating relationship between the two organisations towards the end of a year in which the players’ union has represented members of the Irish senior women’s team in a dispute with the FAI, players at Athlone Town charged with match fixing and players Bray during an investigation into suggestions of a similar nature.

However, the association denied this. A spokesman claimed that “the PFAI came last Thursday looking for the pitches to play. With the notice that they gave, they just weren’t available.” The organisation’s suggestion is that the recent switch from Umbro to New Balance affected the availability of kit.

“We have never had anything back saying they won’t deal with us in relation to anything we have tried to do,” said McGuinness whose PFAI has been based in the FAI building in Abbotstwon since the FAI moved there from Merrion Square. “But what (we) have found is that everything has become very formal. The very reason we moved into Abbotstown was that we would have a working relationship, to be somewhere where the football family, as it was being sold to us, could work together and now. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s happening.”

The scheme, meanwhile, got off to a low-key start on Tuesday with 10 of the 100 or so players on the PFAI’s register of available players turning up to the first training session which was overseen by former UCD and Limerick manager Martin Russell.

“We will have players coming and going so it’s very hard for us to quantify,” said McGuinness. “Some people will use it for one session, some will come in for 10, some come in and just play the games . . . the main thing for us is that they know it’s on and available for them.”

Darren Meenan, a league winner with Dundalk before he left last year for Shamrock Rovers, was one of those involved on the first day while another former Rovers player, Simon Madden, is expected to participate over the coming weeks. But McGuinness insists there wil be no shortage of takers from a pool that includes many well known names despite a growing number of clubs offering two-year contracts in the context of a general economic upturn that has meant more players are able to get work outside the game during the close season.

“The top three are offering 52-week contracts. But what’s really healthy is when you see clubs like Longford offering two-year deals [while] Galway, it looks like, are going to stay full time which is encouraging. But the most encouraging thing is that the wages haven’t spiralled out of control.

“I’m in the job 10 years and we’d never had a year where there wasn’t a player owed money. So this is the first year in terms of players’ contracts that I’ve seen everyone get to the end of the season with their wages paid.”

Dundalk, meanwhile, have confirmed the signing of former Galway United striker Ronan Murray and Waterford have announced that David Webster will play for the club next season. Shamrock rovers have announced the signing of 20-year-old Ethan Boyle from Finn Harps.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times