A decision has been taken to take an ‘independent interim review’ of Athlone Town following a meeting between the Football Association of Ireland and board members of the Midlands club.
Athlone Town failed to fulfil an SSE Airtricity League First Division fixture away to Waterford United on Friday due to unpaid wages.
On the Monday the FAI released a statement that an independent person will meet all the relevant stakeholders to produce a report. The statement said: “The Football Association of Ireland has ordered an independent interim review of Athlone Town FC after a meeting between SSE Airtricity League director Fran Gavin, League chairman Eamon Naughton and representatives of the club, after its failure to fulfil their fixture versus Waterford United on June 3.
“The board of the Football Association of Ireland will appoint an independent person to meet with all of the relevant stakeholders of Athlone Town FC, including the chairman, board members, management, and players, as well as supporters groups and potential investors, to discuss recent issues and the long-term future of the club.
“Once the independent interim review is complete, the findings will be presented to the FAI.”
Alan Mathews, Athlone Town’s manager, had explained the reason why players in his squad opted not to play against Waterford United at the RSC last Friday. “The players felt that they were left with no alternative than to say that they couldn’t commit to the game. They weren’t in a position to leave work, and take time off at their own expense without being compensated,” Mathews said during an in-depth interview with Midlands 103.
“I think when you look at the bigger picture, it tarnishes the good name of the league and the club. But more importantly, we need to look at the reasons behind why it happened.”
Only four players turned up at the Red Cow Hotel in Dublin ahead of the scheduled match in Waterford. “I was aware that something was bubbling at lunchtime on Friday,” Mathews admitted. “We tried to make arrangements to see could it be fixed, but it wasn’t going to be fixed. The players weren’t going to be given their expenses on Friday. And that culminated in me going down to the Red Cow where four players turned up.
“It’s something I’ve never ever experienced before, nor is it something I want to experience again.”
The Athlone squad were frustrated that expenses had not been paid recently.
“The players committed to this at the start, as the club did. But of late, there’s been an issue where those expenses weren’t paid,” Mathews confirmed. “As a group, they decided they were not available to play. They didn’t refuse to play, but they were not available because there were no expenses available to them.
“The season is on a break now, and a lot of the guys have taken time off work and were dependent on whatever small money was coming to them. It’s not big money, it’s not significant amounts of money, but it would help them along. They made it clear on Friday that they were not available to go down to Waterford.”
On Friday, Athlone released a statement on the club website that read: “Due to the unavailability of a number of players for tonight’s game against Waterford United we are unable to field a team for the fixture. The club only learned of the situation when the team manager contacted the club mid afternoon.
“The current uncertainty off the field is adversely affecting the morale of all parties and requires immediate positive action by all interested parties. We now have set a deadline of close of business next Tuesday [June 14] for those parties in possession of plans for the club to go forward to submit them for consideration. After that date such action as is necessary will be taken by the present board.”
The FAI also released a statement on Friday: “SSE Airtricity League director Fran Gavin strongly condemns Athlone Town FC over their failure to field a team in the SSE Airtricity League First Division against Waterford United.
“Due to take place in the RSC tonight [Friday, June 3], the game will not go ahead after the League office were informed this afternoon by Athlone Town FC that they did not have enough players to fulfil the fixture.
“We take this matter extremely seriously and will be charging Athlone for failing to fulfil the fixture and for bringing the game into disrepute,” said Gavin.
“This is totally unacceptable. To be notified on the afternoon of an SSE Airtricity League fixture that a club cannot field a team is simply not good enough. We will be meeting with Athlone Town over the weekend to discuss this serious matter.”