Troubled Galway opt out of league for a year


AFTER A rough season that ended in relegation from the Premier Division and continuing difficulties off it, Galway United’s directors announced yesterday that they are taking at least a year away from senior football to reflect on their position. The Supporters’ Trust that funded the club through much of last season has confirmed it has applied for a league licence of its own.

“People will ask: ‘How can you walk away from your club?’” acknowledged Vincent O’Connor of the Trust yesterday, “and I’d have to say that it has been one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made in my life. But the level of the debt and some of the dealings we’ve had with the directors have made our position untenable. We felt that we couldn’t bring the club as it is forward.”

Instead, the Galway United Supporters’ Trust (Gust) has decided to attempt to gain a licence itself so it can enter a newly formed club in the league. Taking their lead from supporters in Cork a couple of years back, Gust have been taking advice from the Uefa-funded organisation Supporters Direct, a group established to promote “sustainable spectator sports clubs, based on supporters’ involvement and community ownership”.

Gust’s decision to go it alone has, however, raised the possibility that the longest established of Galway’s three Airtricity League club’s will be lost to the city and senior football next year, with the directors of the official club announcing yesterday that they have now withdrawn their own licence application.

“Following the extremely late decision by Gust to withdraw from the transitional agreement to run Galway United Football Club,” the board said in a statement, “the directors are left with no option but to withdraw their application for a licence for the Airtricity League 2012 season.

“The ensuing 12 months will allow the club to assess strategic and infrastructural changes that are required to be made ahead of an application for the 2013 season. A decision will then be taken as to the best route forward for soccer in Galway and discussions will take place with all stakeholders.”

The initial Gust licence application has already been submitted and the organisation’s members are currently working on the second phase of the process, but their hope is to have current boss John “Jumbo” Brennan in charge of team affairs and to play home games at the club’s traditional home, Terryland Park.

“We believe that with Jumbo in charge we can work with a locally-based team that can be competitive again and restore some pride to Galway football,” said O’Connor.

“We’d be happy to start off in the First Division and build from there but the first thing we need is to get a fair hearing from the FAI and we’re hopeful of that.”

It remains to be seen, however, whether the club licensing committee will effectively hold Gust’s role in funding Galway United last year against it by suggesting that it should have completed its takeover of the established club rather than stepping away and looking to form an alternative.

The exact level of debt being carried by United and its directors past and present is unclear but it is understood that a lot of work has been going on behind the scenes to get the problem under control by negotiating with creditors and to formulate a plan for dealing with the outstanding amount.

Quite how the official club could become involved again in senior football in the event that it steps away now is unclear, however, and members of the board declined to comment yesterday.