Cork City owner loses appeal against FAI ban

The High Court has today dismissed an action brought by the owner of Cork City FC aimed at overturning an FAI decision to suspend him for 12 months from football activities for bringing the game into disrepute.

Tom Coughlan brought judicial review proceedings aimed at quashing an independent FAI' Disciplinary Committee's finding of December 17 last that Mr Coughlan had brought the game into disrepute, a 12-month ban from all football-related activities and a fine of €5,000.

Today at the High Court in his judgment Mr Justice John Hedigan dismissed the action after holding that the FAI as a private sporting body is not amenable to judicial review.

The Judge who said that the action was the "latest episode" of what has been "the sad saga of Cork City's financial difficulties". He said that he hoped that the difficulties are sorted out as soon as possible in the interest of the fans, players and management at the club.

However Judge also stated that disputes involving sporting organisations are "best resolved through their own governing bodies", and such matters should only come before the courts of law only "as a last resort in the rarest of cases".

The charges against Mr Coughlan Summerville, Eglantine Park, Douglas, Co Cork relate to allegations that he failed to pay employees on time, failed to meet his obligations to revenue, failed to pay insurance premiums on time, failed to pay ESB resulting in supply being cut off, bounced cheques to referees and revenue, failed to pay transport costs and was involved in two high profile winding up proceedings.

He claimed he was denied fair procedure by the Football Association's Disciplinary Committees refusal to adjourn the meeting of December 17, at the FAI's HQ at Abbotstown on December 17 last being held to consider a charge against him arising out of his actions in connection with the club during the 2009 season.

The FAI had opposed Mr Coughlan's action, and had denied any breach of fair procedure.

Mr Justice Hedigan, in holding that the FAI is not amenable to judicial review, rejected the argument that the association is a public body, and held that even though the organisation aims to act in public interest it is "no more bound to do than anybody else".

He said that Mr Coughlan as owner of Cork City was fully aware of his relationship with the Association and bound to its rules. The Association's rules, the judge added, include one that prohibits the bringing of football-related disputes through the courts.

While his finding that the FAI is not amenable to judicial review alone was sufficient grounds to warrant a dismiss of the application, the Judge further held that the FAI committee had not acted unfairly or in breach of fair procedure by refusing to grant Mr Coughlan's request to adjourn the meeting of the December 17.

The Judge also noted that Mr Coughlan had not availed of an extensive appeal process set down within the FAI's rules.

In the proceedings, Mark O'Mahoney Bl for Mr Coughlan claimed that the ban will have disastrous effects on the his efforts to secure additional funding for the club, and his ability to negotiate on behalf of the club has been devastated.

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