Cork City chairman says Premier Division football next season could still be possible

Cork City chairman Declan Carey says the club could still be playing Premier Division football next season, as uncertainty around the league structure for 2021 grows.

City were relegated last week after losing to Sligo Rovers, coupled with Finn Harps’ win against Bohemians.

A few days later FORAS members voted in favour of selling the club to Preston North End owner Trevor Hemmings, and his Grovemoor Limited company

“We were strongly advocated for this to go ahead and get it to the next stage, which we’re in now”, Carey told the Big Red Bench on Saturday.

“The Call Option Agreement has been approved by the members, so it’s up to Grovemoor to do their due diligence very quickly and apply for a licence through the League of Ireland licensing process and we’ll support them with that.

“We’ve been working on the ground, we’ve been steering the ship the last couple of years, it’s been extremely difficult and it’s been one challenge after the next. We feel that this was the right decision for the best interests of Cork City FC. The responsibility of FORAS is to be the guardians of senior football in Cork, and we felt as directors of FORAS that this was the best decision that members could take.

“Ultimately they did ratify it and vote it through on Wednesday, it finished about 70%-30% in favour, very strong support for the motion and we’re glad now that’s been pushed through and we can progress to the next step.”

Grovemoor were silent in the build up to the vote, but revealed their plans to FORAS shareholders on the night of it – and Carey says it was well received.

“They gave a lot of detail about community activities, and how they like to build a sustainable football club and make sure it’s ingrained in the local city or county like they do with Preston North End, they explained a lot of the different activities that they do there that I think would have resonated with the FORAS shareholders in the way that we do a lot of community and charity work as well. We’re ingrained with a lot of the big charities in Cork, like Marymount, Cork Simon, The Mercy Hospital Foundation. The family element of the club is hugely important, we have the Family Enclosure at every home game, kids playing games at half time from clubs all over the city and county.

“They do a lot of similar work over there that maybe Cork City fans may not be too familiar with. Once they clarified that and gave some of their knowledge of Cork itself, they obviously have a lot of businesses here and they would visit here pretty regularly, especially pre Covid-19. I think that resonated with a lot of the shareholders. It was great to get further details from them on it, and I think that would have relaxed people a bit more before the vote took place.”

City play their final game of the season on Sunday as they host Derry City at Turner’s Cross, two weeks after being relegated from the SSE Airtricity Laegue Premier division. And while the spectre of first division football looms large, Carey says that with the current situation with Covid-19 they could yet be playing in the Premier Division in 2021.

“We’re not even sure what way the league will look next year. We have finished 10th, but the FAI haven’t confirmed what format the league will be in next season, so we don’t know what division we’ll be in.

“We’ve obviously had our financial troubles and licensing difficulties last winter, the indications we’re getting from the FAI this year is that licensing process this year will be very tough and there’ll be very tight deadlines on it as well. We’re only going with the information we have to hand right now.  There’s no confirmation of what way the structures will be next season. Obviously there’s very strong likelihood the games will be behind closed doors.

“We just have to play it by ear – it’s not just us clutching at straws, we have to plan for all scenarios. Whether we are in the first division or not, it remains to be seen. But we will obviously plan for the different scenarios and work with Grovemoor through their licensing process and we’ll make sure it goes as smoothly as possible.

“We are planning as best we can with the information we have to hand, and hopefully a bit more clarity on the league structure will become apparent in the next couple of weeks.”

You can listen to Declan Carey’s full chat with Colm O’Sullivan here.

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