By Ann O’Loughlin
Limerick FC has launched High Court proceedings against the Football Association of Ireland over what the soccer club claims is its exclusion from participating in the League of Ireland.
The club brought proceedings against the FAI over the association’s alleged failure to invite Limerick to submit an application for a licence to allow it play in the League of Ireland First Division during the 2020 season.
Limerick, which late last year was the subject of a failed examinership process, claims the FAI is bound under its own rules to invite the club to submit an application.
Limerick claims the FAI has refused to do so, which has the effect of excluding it from competing in this season’s First Division.
In addition, it claims the FAI has allowed Shamrock Rovers B team to enter a team in the First Division, which the other clubs in the division are all opposed to.
It claims the decision to allow Shamrock Rovers second team take part is wrongful because it was taken by the FAI’s board and National League Executive Committee and not by the FAI Club Licensing Bodies.
The court heard the FAI in correspondence with the club never said that it was unwilling to allow Limerick FC to apply for a licence.
However, the club says the deadlines were only missed due to certain “illegitimate demands” made by the FAI.
The FAI said the club had not provided it with information it requires before a licence can be granted before the required deadlines had expired.
In its proceedings, Munster Football Club Limited, trading as Limerick Football Club and represented in court by Frank Callanan SC, seeks various orders against the FAI.
The orders include an injunction requiring the FAI to take all necessary steps to permit Limerick FC to submit an application for a licence allowing it play in the 2020 League of Ireland First Division.
It also seeks injunctions preventing the FAI from excluding it from the League of Ireland, and that the FAI is restrained from allocating any of the club’s assets, including its underage academy, to any other party.
It further seeks injunctions preventing the FAI from granting a licence allowing any third party to play in the 2020 First Division instead of Limerick until the FAI has complied with its obligations under the association’s rules and regulations.
At the High Court today Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds, on an ex-parte basis, granted the club permission to serve short notice of the proceedings on the FAI.
Noting the urgency of the claim the judge adjourned the case to Thursday’s sitting of the court.
The Judge also agreed with counsel that Shamrock Rovers FC should be formally be made aware of the proceedings.
In a sworn statement Limerick FC chairman Pat O’Sullivan said his relationship with the FAI had steadily declined over the course of 2019.
A number of issues arose and the club had entered the examinership process, which was ultimately unsuccessful.
In regards to securing an annual licence to play in the league of Ireland for the 2020 season, he claims the FAI had refused to allow the company to submit an application unless certain information was provided in advance.
He said the FAI through its Competitions Director Fran Gavin said the club could not submit an application if Mr O’Sullivan was involved.
Chairman says rules ‘inherently unfair on the club’
Mr O’Sullivan claims that Mr Gavin wanted face-to-face meetings with potential investors in the club, as well as a detailed business plan from the investors.
Detailed budgets and a list of all those involved in the running of the club had also to be submitted.
Mr O’Sullivan said all of these demands were “totally and utterly in breach of FAI and UEFA rules and were inherently unfair on the club”.
Mr OSullivan said that the examiner appointed to the company should have but did not take issue with FAI’s demands. He said he was personally disappointed with that, and said that should have been challenged.
He said that he has invested €4.5m in Limerick FC since he became involved in the club over a decade ago.
He said that while the club’s examinership had not been successful, and protection of the courts from its creditors was removed in December, no steps to have the club liquidated have been taken by its creditors.
He said he has not received a letter from the FAI cancelling the club’s membership of the League of Ireland.
He also said the club had a better chance of survival once the examinership had ended and said the investors were still prepared to come on board.
He said that Mr Danny Drew, who had been involved with Limerick FC in the past, has acted as a representative for the proposed investors.