Johnston admits Dundalk face an uphill battle to survive

DUNDALK FC General Manager Paul Johnston admits that the club face “severe challenges and difficulties ahead” as the Lilywhites try to stave off the prospect of going into examinership.

DUNDALK FC General Manager Paul Johnston admits that the club face “severe challenges and difficulties ahead” as the Lilywhites try to stave off the prospect of going into examinership.

Johnston was speaking at the end of a turbulent week for the club. On Monday Dundalk FC released a statement concerning the unpaid insurance claim for the fire to an astro-turf pitch at Hiney Park last summer.

The statement said that an unfavourable settlement would leave the club in a “perilous position where we will have no money to pay staff, players and creditors going forward”.

Two days later, Johnston and fellow board member Paul Kearney met with the playing squad to inform them that there was no money to pay their wages although they were given assurances that they would be given their unpaid money this week.

The situation nosedived even further yesterday (Monday) when Commercial Manager Fintan Nelson and Club Promotions Officer Dean Arrowsmith were also laid off after a meeting with Johnston and club owner Gerry Matthews, leaving real question marks over the club’s viability.

“Obviously we have been in severe financial difficulties for a number of weeks now and this week it came to a bit of a head”, said Johnston on Friday night.

“We’ve had a conversation with the players, we’ve had a conversation with the management and the administration staff so we all know what’s happening and we have to try and push forward and get through these difficult times.”

Johnston said the club were working hard to ensure that the players get paid this week. Failure to do so will inevitably see the club enter examinership where they would be deducted 10-points by the FAI for a breach of the licensing laws. It would also mean that every professional on Dundalk’s playing squad would become a free agent.

“We’re working morning, noon and night to ensure that doesn’t happen”, said Johnston.

“We know the rules and regulations and the business we’re in”, he added. “We’ve had discussions with the FAI, they’ve always been very helpful to the club in regards to explaining a situation and they will help in any way they can.

“We can’t project the future at the minute. All we can do is work through the opportunities we have to try and raise money. At the moment we’re taking every day and week as it comes. We have 23 weeks of the season left to push through, we’re looking at that at the minute and putting our front foot forward and exploring every avenue.

Johnston also gave his thoughts on why the financial situation had become so dire.

“In hindsight you could say that the budget is too high. We reduced our budget by well over 25% from last year to try and cut our cloth but with other events it has been difficult.

“Sponsorship has been hugely down. We are delighted with our sponsors like Fyffes and Total Produce who have come in to support us but other sponsorships, like match-day and stuff like that, those businesses are struggling like the rest of us.

“Our gates are down, everybody can see that. Sean McCaffrey has come into a very difficult situation where there’s 17 new players in the club. There is youth, Sean certainly wanted more experience but we didn’t have the money to give him that.”

Dundalk are hoping to line up a friendly with Chelsea’s reserve team when the English club return to pre-season training in July but with no home games for four weeks after Friday night’s televised derby clash with Drogheda United, the situation looks very bleak for the club.

On the field, McCaffrey said that Dundalk would appeal against Michael Rafter’s sending-off against St Patrick’s Athletic last Monday night. The Dundalk boss is also hopeful of signing Hernany Macedo with McCaffrey saying that money has been “ring-fenced” in the budget in the event that the Brazilian receives a work-permit. However moves for Stephen Beattie and Carrickmacross man Barry Conlon are now unlikely to happen.