Comment: Derry City should seek compensation for FAI fixture debacle

DERRY CITY and any other affected League of Ireland clubs should demand compensation from the FAI given the financial implications they face due to the postponement of fixtures over the next month.

Wednesday, 29th May 2019, 2:20 pm
Derry City boss, Declan Devine is fuming after postponements have left his side without a home game for six weeks.

The FAI has used its discretionary powers to accommodate the Republic of Ireland Under-21 team at the expense of League of Ireland senior clubs with multiple fixtures called off despite objections from some of those involved.

The upcoming Toulon tournament has resulted in six Premier Division games being postponed in total, including next Friday night’s meeting between Derry City and UCD at the Brandywell. The decision to call that particular fixture off is an interesting one as FIFA’s international calendar doesn’t commence until Monday next, June 2

However, as Stephen Kenny’s squad will take on the Republic of Ireland senior team in a behind-closed-doors friendly that day, the FAI has enforced a clause in the Airtricity League’s ‘Participation Agreement,’ which states the League Director has ‘the power to postpone any fixture(s) on giving a minimum of 24 hours notice to the relevant Participant Clubs should it be deemed to be in the best interests of the League/FAI.”

And so the international squad’s interests take precedence even for an international friendly fixture.

Therefore, the Candy Stripes’ scheduled league fixtures against UCD next Friday night and Waterford on June 14th have been axed and the Brandywell club has had no say in the matter with strong objections from team boss, Declan Devine, seemingly falling on deaf ears at FAI headquarters in Abbotstown.

It’s left an incredible situation where Derry City will be without a home league fixture for six weeks due to the mid-season break. In fact the home clash with Dundalk on July 5 may yet be rearranged due to the Lilywhites’ Champions League fixture but we’ll wait with bated breath and see what plan the FAI set in action to ensure there’s minimal disruption in that case.

Surely Derry won’t have to wait until the Sligo Rovers fixture on July 19th for the next home gate?

It’s a disgraceful situation and one, described by Devine as ‘ludicrous’ and defying logic. However, it’s a recurrent problem with the league’s ruling body and one gets the feeling that it will once again be brushed under the carpet as the League of Ireland clubs continue to struggle to make ends meet.

They say they have the interests of the league at heart but this is just another incidence where one can clearly see that their interests may lie elsewhere.

That said, it’s fantastic that Stephen Kenny has opted to select so many players from the domestic league but surely there should be some sort of financial incentive or a way to relieve the financial burden it places on clubs who either have no choice but to postpone their fixtures, or are given no choice.

Derry City and Cork City both had no choice. It’s an enforced break where they will go without two home gate receipts and so they should be entitled to some sort of compensation from the league’s governing body.

The way the fixtures have been scheduled this season has been a disaster. Cramming so many games into the first phase of fixtures with midweek games and games in quick succession, is already impacting attendances, not to mention the quality of games and it makes no sense whatsoever to have a mid-season break if it is going to cause such a pile-up of rearranged games.

According to Devine, the clubs don’t want it and the players don’t want it so why should it be annual occurrence even when it’s not a World Cup or European Championships year?

The calendar in the second half of the campaign isn’t anywhere near as packed but those re-arranged games will have to be slotted in, more than likely on a Monday or Tuesday night which denies the host club a potential bumper Friday night gate.

“It’s a disgrace,” declared Devine on Friday night as he once again hit out at the situation and called for contingency plans. “But who is going to give us compensation? Who’s going to give us it? There’s no excuse. Absolutely no excuse.

“Could we not have foreseen this coming? We have also had games called off in the past through internationals. I understand that, but there has to be contingency plans. There has to be a Plan B. There has to be something else put in place. Why so many midweek games?

“If they had of announced this squad a couple of weeks earlier it could’ve put other games into place so a football club never has to go six weeks without a game.”

And the summer break is something which certainly doesn’t sit well with Devine.

“Why are we having a summer break? What other league takes a break for a summer holiday? I don’t see Sergio Aguero and other Man City players going on holiday in the middle of their season. I don’t see Scottish players going on holiday. I know there’s a Christmas break but that’s a festive season. Why do we have a holiday?” he asked. “We’re only getting our players to the level we want them and now we’re saying to them ‘head off there and have a wee break’.”

So after playing 15 games in the past 59 days Derry City face the prospect of playing just one (against Shamrock Rovers) in the following 32 days! The biggest problem in all of that is the club is missing out on those home gates and the money generated from the fixtures at Brandywell.

Let’s see how heavily the club’s coffers are impacted but on the playing front it certainly isn’t ideal as Devine’s troops are well placed for a shot at European qualification but now must sit idly back and watch other clubs make progress on the pitch during a frustrating international break.