‘We Care About Irish Football’.
That is the FAI’s official motto, but at times it isn’t very convincing.
Actions speak louder than words, and the organisation has done itself no favours in its treatment of the PFAI annual training camp for out of contract players from the League of Ireland.
The camp, which has existed for eight years to keep these out of contract players fit and sharp, and includes 12 sessions and two matches, many of which are attended by managers and scouts.
On Friday, however, the FAI informed the players union that no pitches would be available for the camp, and that no gear would be provided due to the new sponsorship deal with New Balance unveiled in August.
The FAI had funded the annual camp – which has previously helped high-profile players such as Brian Gartland and Eamon Zayed find clubs – for the past eight seasons. The FAI cited short notice as the reason for pitches being available, but many feel the issue is linked to the ongoing tension between the organisation and the PFAI.
The union were critical of the treatment of the women’s national team earlier this year, and took a firm stance on the controversies surrounding Bray Wanderers and Athlone Town.
“I met with the FAI on Friday and they just told us that it was unavailable to the PFAI,” PFAI general secretary Stephen McGuinness told the Irish Examiner.
“None of it was available. I thought it was a date clash, maybe they had something on, but that didn’t seem to be the case and I was clearly told it was unavailable to us.
“The disappointing thing from our point of view, and the support from the FAI which hasn’t happened, is that this is not about the PFAI, it’s about the players who, ultimately, you would think, the FAI care about and would overlook whatever issues they have with us and be able to assist players.”
The fact that no senior FAI official attended the PFAI’s annual awards for the first time since before McGuinness became a committee member is further evidence of the tension between both parties, but players aren’t the people who should pay the price.
“We’re more than willing to assist, to work with the FAI,” McGuinness concluded. “But for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem to be coming the other way.”
The relationship between both parties has reportedly reached a new low, and Soccer Republic’s Alan Cawley says the FAI’s decision “isn’t beneficial for anyone”.
“These appear to be petty squabbles and the relationship looks to be at a low that it hasn’t reached before,” Soccer Republic’s Alan Cawley told RTÉ Sport.
“It isn’t beneficial for anyone. This gets in the way of the game. This has been valuable for players in the last eight years and you want to see everyone go out of their way to support it.”
Thankfully, support for the camp came from elsewhere.
CX Sports donated kits, Bohemians donated training equipment, and both Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk offered their respective training facilities, allowing the camp to begin today as planned.
Former Limerick manager Martin Russell will serve as manager, with Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rodgers acting as goalkeeping coach over the next few weeks.