Extent of Galway crisis now public following former FA chairman’s explosive resignation letter

Article by Kieran Burke. For many weeks now there has been rumours of discord between Galway United Football Club and one of its former stakeholders, the Galway United Football Association. Last night this discord became public knowledge thanks to a public resignation letter from the departing Galway FA chairman Ger Gibbons.

In an address sent to all members of the Galway FA, who last week relinquished their interested in Galway United after the LOI side opted to become the latest fully fan owned membership model in the domestic league, Gibbons said:

‘’It is with regret that I have to announce that I am standing down as Chairman of the Galway FA with immediate effect. The main reason that I am doing this is the constant negative attitude towards Galway United. I would nearly go as far as saying that some people on the Galway FA hope that Galway United as a football club would collapse.

When the catering contract came up for renewal, Galway United offered more money than the other bidder, but the lower bid got the contract.

When Galway United inquired last year about putting in a bar in the old dressing rooms in EDP, there was serious opposition to it, but practically no opposition to renting out upstairs for 3 years, which I agree with, as you have to get a reasonable length of time to recover your outlay on renovations

The contract I signed with Galway United for the bar on behalf of the committee was for one year at a reduced fee, so that Galway United could recoup some of the €10,000 they spent renovating the old dressing rooms. The fee for the next season was up for discussion at around the end of this year, but an email was sent to Galway United telling them to remove all their stuff from the bar area and to restore it to its original condition. This in my opinion was not what was agreed earlier this year.

The decision to restore the dressing rooms was seemingly taken by some members of the football committee and other people who are not on the Galway FA and without consultation with the full committee of the Galway FA, so that this new academy could use them. Why would we need this when we have the finest dressing rooms in the League of Ireland? The academy, I agree is the right thing to do, but it should be in conjunction with Galway United, who despite comments on social media did make contact with a member of the Galway FA about running this jointly, but was told that he would discuss with the committee and get back to him. When he did get back to Galway United he said the committee were not interested.

I am not sure what committee did discuss this, but it was not the full committee. Also the academy was seemingly launched last weekend and the first I knew of it was when I saw the picture on Facebook of all the coaches in EDP. Not sure who knew about the launch but I as chairman definitely didn't Finally, work started this week on the removal of the bar and I do not know who gave that instruction to remove it.

So, after 10 years on the GFA and 2 years as chairman, that's it folks. All I ever wanted from my involvement with the GFA was to improve things in Galway football. We succeeded for a while but things seem to be going back to the old ways... fighting and bickering and the only ones that suffer are the people that are the most important, the PLAYERS. Yours in sport, Ger Gibbons.’’

Gibbons scathing criticism of the Galway FA committee comes just weeks after United were forced to issue a plea asking season ticket holders to leave their passes behind for the final game of the season against Dundalk and instead pay in at the gate if at all possible. This led to many LOI fans asking why a club that had received a sizeable transfer fee for star defender Lee Grace from Shamrock Rovers only recently were now in financial jeopardy. As a result, rumours of unfavourable lease agreements regarding Eamon Deacy Park, which is owned by the Galway FA and rented to United, began to emerge. Gibbons letter, which was made public on Reddit, seems to back up those claims which will surely lead to a backlash for those currently on the Galway FA board.

In truth, this bombshell has been a long time coming and the allegations made by Gibbons are not likely to surprise many within LOI circles. Having re-entered the LOI as recently as 2014 following the collapse of the old Galway United, Galway FC as it was initially branded was a make up of the old Galway supporters trust, the Galway FA and junior sides Salthill Devon and Mervue United.

Part of the agreement which saw the ‘’Tribesmen’’ re-established through this partnership was that the LOI club could not field underage sides. Many saw this as a way of appeasing the local junior clubs, Salthill and Mervue in particular who had of course given up their own LOI status at the conclusion of the 2013 season.

Casting thoughts back to earlier this season, the decision by the Galway FA to fine United for what was described as ‘’excessive damage and wear on Eamonn Deacy Park’s pitch due to fans incursion’’ will surely now be looked upon as sinister by both supporters of the club and LOI fans alike. This €100 fine was brought against the club following a 3-1 at home to Limerick FC on July 7th 2017 when young children approached Galway players for photographs at the conclusion of the match. At the time it was celebrated by LOI fans as a great marketing tool and way of creating a link between the club and its community of younger fans.

However, United soon made public the fact the club had been fined by the Galway FA, who receive €650 per game for the use of Eamonn Deacy Park from GUFC. While the bill was picked up by a local bar, the decision to fine the LOI club drew great ridicule among supporters on social media.

With the news of United’s new ownership model being celebrated by the LOI community earlier this week combined with the hugely successful LOI dash fundraiser by supporters, who raised just shy of €20,000 for the club by playing a short match at all twenty LOI grounds in the space of 24 hours, these are encouraging times for GUFC despite their recent relegation to the First Division. However, with the clubs home ground still under the ownership of the Galway FA, it remains to be seen how this public spat will play out with many followers of the domestic game now asking for intervention from the Football Association of Ireland.

With off-field crisis currently being endured at a number of LOI clubs, this is far from a good public image for the leagues governing body, who are yet to announce a new structure for the First Division, which Galway United will participate in come February.

Between the Stripes has offered the Galway FA an opportunity to comment on Ger Gibbons’s resignation letter and will update this article if response is made.