They won their appeal to the Connaught Football Association against the shock ruling by the league last month to deem the facility ‘unsuitable for adult competitive football’.
Announcing the findings of provincial body’s appeals body, Art Friel, Connaught administrator, stated: “After considering all documentation produced and evidence given to the hearing, the disciplinary committee of the Connaught Football Association unanimously agreed to uphold the appeal by Castlebar Celtic.
“The disciplinary committee is satisfied that the Rival Arena is Football Association of Ireland approved and complies with FIFA.”
While the outcome was widely expected within the sport, it still came as a source of relief for members of Castlebar Celtic struggling to come to terms with the flawed motives behind the crusade against the club.
However, the Connaught FA’s ruling represents a further hammer blow to the reputation and leadership of the Mayo League in the aftermath of the successful Snugboro United appeal and the forced climbdown on the increased pitch dimensions issue.
A once-proud organisation has sadly been reduced to a laughing stock and the urgent need for a clear-out and a fresh infusion of football blood has never been more profound.
Whether or not there will be recognition of the irreparable damage caused to the sport by the recent spree of Mayo League created controversies remains to be seen and it may require a motion of no confidence to do so.
There can be no question that officers of the league’s eight-strong management committee made a huge error of judgement when it reached a decision at a meeting at Milebush Park on March 15 to controversially close down the Rival Arena to football despite stubborn opposition being reportedly expressed within its ranks.
The committee took its stand within days of being embarrassingly forced to reverse an earlier bid to increase pitch dimensions following an outcry by affiliated clubs.
It is disturbing that the league told Castlebar Celtic ‘it placed the health and safety of its members as paramount’ without pointing out what aspects of the venue did not conform to health and safety requirements.
It is also disturbing the league rejected a number of requests by the club for a meeting.
In the circumstances, the county town club was left with no option but to take the high profile case to the Connaught Football Association.
Central to their appeal was a circular letter sent to the Mayo League on March 25, 2010, by Aodh Cronin, facility development administrator of the Football Association of Ireland, stating the Rival Arena was acceptable to the FAI for competitive use.
The letter in question had been emailed to all clubs by John Durkan, Mayo League secretary, on March 31, 2010.
The FAI had based its assessment on a test report provided by the Belfast-based firm, Sportslabs Limited. The firm carried out the test on November 17, 2009, and found that it met all the requirements set out in EN 15330-1, as specified in FAI Guidelines for Artificial Turf.
The Celtic delegation of James Murray, chairman, Diane Nevin, secretary, and Pat Naughton, assistant secretary, also outlined that the dimensions of the Rival Arena marginally exceeded the minimum regulations and the distance between the pitch perimeter and the enclosure was in line with the Mayo League’s own criteria.
They spelled out their concerns over the validity of the Mayo League’s decision and the fact they felt victimised as a club after making such a massive investment in a project designed to help foster and develop the sport at all levels at a time of growing competition from other sports.
The Mayo League was represented at the appeal hearing in Claremorris by Padraig McHale, chairman, John Durkan, secretary, and Gerry Sweeney, registrar.
McHale told the Western People on March 27 that his committee ‘believed there was an increased risk of injury to players when two adult teams clash in such an enclosed area in competitive football’.
The assertion was made despite the fact the distance between pitch perimeter lines and the enclosure meets the Mayo League’s own guidelines.
He further stated that entry to the spectator area was through the pitch itself and this was not allowed under Mayo League rules.
Whatever case was made by the league trio did not stand up to scrutiny and the Connaught FA unanimously overturned their decision to close down the Rival Arena to football.
Hopefully, it now marks the end of a sad and regrettable saga that did the image of the sport no good whatsoever.
In the final analysis, Celtic officials have a compelling case to request the Football Association of Ireland to examine how their club was treated.
What is more likely, however, is the tabling of a notice of no-confidence in the league.