Tuesday, 10 April 2012 14:33
THE Mayo Association Football League was established in 1954 with the main purpose of supporting their clubs and ensuring their long-term stability.
While it took a long time for the organisation to reap the fruits of its progressive and pioneering spirit, the evidence was there for everybody to witness when the Football Association of Ireland held its annual general meeting in the county in July 2008.
Officials of the FAI from throughout the country were astounded at the high standard of facilities provided by clubs in every corner of a county where Gaelic football enjoyed such a strong and proud tradition.
The level of investment in the sport was remarkable and established soccer in Mayo as the template to which others aspired.
Sadly, the drive, imagination and enterprise that made the Mayo League the envy of their counterparts around Ireland has been lost and one must hope it is only a temporary setback.
Instead of supporting their clubs, the league has adopted an absurd course of destabilising them to the point of acute frustration in a number of cases.
The lead-up to the start of the 2012 season, which is scheduled to kick off next weekend with a full round of fixtures, has been marred by a series of damaging controversies of the league’s own making.
There was the ludicrous situation of two clubs, Snugboro and Newport Town, being heavily fined and having points taking off them after being cited for playing an unauthorised friendly match when they had only played a practice game at the end of a training session which took place at the Rival Arena at Celtic Park.
Little did anyone realise, however, there was a different agenda at play and Snugboro ensured justice and common sense prevailed when they successfully appealed the punishment to the Connaught Football Association.
Dismay within the sport turned to outright anger when it was then learned that the Mayo League had decided to increase the minimum dimensions of pitches without any consultation with their affiliates, the clubs that essentially fund the running of the league and its spiralling administration expenses.
When the clubs rightly gritted their teeth at the annual general meeting, the league ran for cover and changed its mind.
The worst was yet to come. After backing down in the dimensions row, the league went for the jugular of one of its leading clubs, Castlebar Celtic, by closing down its €600,000 FAI approved Astroturf stadium, the Rival Arena, because its officers deemed it unsuitable for adult competitive football on health and safety grounds.
They did so without conducting a proper health and safety audit on the venue but persisted in sticking in their heels, completely oblivious to the embarrassing mistake they had made.
It took a Connaught Football Association appeals committee to point out to the Mayo League the error of their ways by unanimously upholding Celtic’s appeal and expressing satisfaction that the Rival Arena is ‘FAI approved and complies with FIFA standards’, as everybody, apart from a majority of Mayo League members, already knew.
If a Mayo League club or team had conducted itself the way the Mayo League has conducted itself over the past number of months, the league’s own disciplinary committee would come down on top of it like the proverbial tonne of bricks.
There can be no question the good name of a game so many of us love in Mayo has been seriously infringed by what has been happening, and there have been other issues which I won’t go into here.
Those with an interest in the sport’s future know what needs to happen because clubs can no longer tolerate the destabilising atmosphere.
That’s the sad truth.