PFAI general secretary Stephen McGuinness has accused the FAI of attempting to undermine the financial viability of the players' union, and the right of its members to strike over the way it has sought to introduce a fund to pay wages when Airtricity League clubs run into trouble.
There was widespread surprise on Wednesday evening when the association announced the proposal, which involves the union putting up half of the €300,000 involved, without having consulted with the PFAI at all, and McGuinness said he was "flabbergasted" when he saw the press release.
“If you strip it all back to the bone, they are trying to cripple us financially and stop us from striking,” said McGuinness on Thursday.
Earlier, at a briefing in Abbotstown, John Delaney had declined to comment on the question of how the association would view a decision by another organisation's board to come up with a proposal that required the FAI to pay half of the cost, then publicise it without ever actually running it past the FAI.
Delaney suggested that the association's competitions director Fran Gavin could better provide an answer as: "You need to know the full facts. He will fill you in exactly because he has the detail."
Gavin subsequently suggested that McGuinness had been aware of the proposal, something McGuinness specifically denies, insisting that he was aware only of the notion that such a fund could be established but never imagining that the union might be expected to put up half of the cash.
On this, the FAI official said: “We’re fully aware the PFAI have the resources and more to contribute to a fund like that.”
Given that the FAI announced financial results this week that included a turnover of €49 million and a surplus of €2.8 million, while the PFAI puts its annual turnover at around €300,000, this could only make any sense if the association is expecting the union to obtain the required funds from Fifpro, the federation of international players’ unions which already supports its Irish affiliate’s work. However, McGuinness insists that there is no precedent for this, and that it will not be requesting any money for that purpose.
Meanwhile, it was never made clear why the FAI had initiated some sort of dialogue with Siptu rather than directly communicating with the PFAI, whose offices are in the association’s building on the national sports campus. McGuinness was, however, adamant that Siptu play no part in the day-to-day operations of the players’ union, insisting that “our members are members of it because it gives them the right to strike which you have to have a negotiating licence to do, and we don’t have enough members”.
On the issue of the actual trouble at Bray Wanderers and Limerick, meanwhile, which gave rise to talk of a fund in the first place, Gavin says that the association is satisfied with the assurances that all commitments will be met until the end of the season.
The situation at Bray will clearly have been greatly helped by the takeover of the club, confirmed on Thursday, by Niall O’Driscoll. The current chairman of highly regarded schoolboy club St Joseph’s Boys, who run Wanderers’ youth setup, O’Driscoll has long established links to football through his business, O’Driscoll O’Neill Insurance.
Previous owner Gerry Mulvey is understood to have retained a shareholding in the club but O’Driscoll says after what has clearly been a difficult spell, he wants to “return Bray to former glories and transform it into a club that represents the local community and all of Wicklow.”