THE FAI’s Director of Communications, Fran Gavin has hit back at the fierce criticism of the association’s E100,000 ‘strategic development’ grant and says he’s ‘disappointed’ Derry City don’t see the merits in the process.
Derry City CEO, Sean Barrett last week revealed the club would reject the FAI’s ‘disgraceful’ and ‘disrespectful’ grant which equates to E5,000 for each of the 20 Airtricity Premier Division clubs.
The intention of the FAI is to totally support the clubs and the league. We want to have the clubs in the position when we have more nights like Dundalk the other night in Tallaght and more nights like Derry had in Gretna in Europe.Fran Gavin
However, Mr Gavin, last night defended the FAI’s position, claiming the grant isn’t a token gesture and is merely a way to kick-start the strategic business plan recommended by the Conroy Report last September.
Mr Gavin defended the position of the FAI and said he wanted to end the ‘petty squabbles’ between clubs, including Derry City and St Pat’s, and the Association.
And while he understands the difficult job of running a club in the League of Ireland given the current financial climate, he insists the FAI is fully supportive and will strive to bring the clubs’ ‘credible plans to fruition’.
“When Sean (Barrett) made his comments, I don’t know whether he was fully informed of the whole process and that it’s only really the first step to kick-start this process,” Mr Gavin told the ‘Journal’.
“When all these plans are put together we will sit down, myself John Delaney (Chief Executive) and Eamon Breen (Finance Director), and go through each club’s credible plans and see how we can work with them and help bring each one of those plans to fruition. It’s as simple as that - a real positive development.
“At the moment Derry’s main focus is the new stadium and developing players,” he added. “Shamrock Rovers’ priority is a new academy. We’re working with Cork City about the development of a centre of excellence in Glanmire.
“Finn Harps are different again with their stadium a priority. So every club has different priorities,” he explained. “The plan was to sit down and see where we could get the funding from, whether that’s from the FAI, local government or authorities.
“This grant is only the first step into putting funding into clubs. But it’s been taken totally out of context.
“Someone made the comment about the FAI making E11 million from the Euros and only giving the clubs ‘X’ amount of money. We’re only a few weeks out of a fantastic Euro campaign and we have to have plans. So that’s been the disappointing thing.”
Meetings between the FAI and the Premier Clubs Association - who represent all league clubs - regarding the future structure and direction of the league have been ongoing since the Consultation Process Report was launched on September 28th last year.
And Mr Gavin claims suggestions the FAI has failed in their duty of care for the league are wide of the mark.
“We’re building up trust between the clubs and the FAI,” he continued. “It’s certainly not a case of tokenism towards the clubs. The FAI are fully supportive of the SSE Airtricity League and it’s a priority to get that right in conjunction with the clubs. It’s a collective process we’re in at the moment. It’s not Derry City against us, or St Pat’s against us or anything like that.
“We work with the clubs every single day. So this idea that the FAI has failed in their duty of care for the League of Ireland is very far removed from what’s actually happening so it’s very disappointing.
“I’m fully respectful of what Philip (O’Doherty) has done for Derry City. Derry are very important for us in the League of Ireland. Myself and John (Delaney) went up there when the club was in trouble (in 2009) and worked to get a plan together to keep the club in the league and we’re very respectful of what Philip does. He’s put huge amount of work into that club with Paul Diamond and the rest of the lads. So the statement from Sean was disappointing. But my door is always open.
“It’s disappointing if they don’t see the merits in the scheme but surely they must see the merits in having a business strategic plan to see where the club is going.”
“This is just a once off payment to kickstart this process. It’s not E5 grand over five years.”
“Even the process alone of going through the strategic plan is a positive experience because it makes you look at all the different strands of the club and where you want to be. Is your club going to be a development club? Will you concentrate on youth football? Do you want to be professional or amateur? What are you going to do around community, how to get people into grounds and all that sort of stuff.
“We’re always open to discuss anything with the club. Richard Fahy (Director of Club Licensing and Facility Development) has been in talks with Derry about the redevelopment of the Brandywell.
“This is the first step in the process of us working with the clubs around improving everything from the clubs to the league and everybody will benefit from it.
“We still endeavour to talk to clubs and explain the process which is part of a much bigger picture. It’s not tokenism.
“The intention of the FAI is to totally support the clubs and the league. We want to have the clubs in the position when we have more nights like Dundalk the other night in Tallaght and more nights like Derry had in Gretna in Europe,
“We want to develop our players and coaches in really good facilities and so we’re not having these petty squabbles which used to happen years and years ago.”