Axed football club Derry City pins hopes on talks
There were hopes today that talks could save the future of Derry City Football Club after it was expelled from the League of Ireland for allegedly offering secondary contracts to players.
Political leaders tried to encourage negotiations on the future of the top flight club which is based north of the Irish border but plays its football in the south.
The Football Association of Ireland's (FAI) dramatic decision to expel the premier division team shocked fans of the club known as the Candystripes, who might now rejoin the league in a lower division.
Derry City Football Club officials have denied exceeding the league's player payment levels by offering secondary contracts to its squad members.
But after the club said it was angry it could not appeal the decision, the MP for the area Mark Durkan is understood to have discussed the issue with FAI Chief Executive John Delaney.
"Many people in Derry will be shocked at the events of the past 48 hours which has seen the club expelled from the League of Ireland," said Mr Durkan.
"This is a very serious situation both for the club and the city.
"Derry City has a distinguished and illustrious history and their achievements on the field of play have brought immense pride to the city and beyond.
"Many questions arise from the decision taken by the Football Association of Ireland and clarity is needed on the subsequent issues identified."
The club hit the headlines recently as it battled a major financial crisis. Now it faces the prospect of rejoining the league, but at a lower division.
Derry City is also expected to miss out on the prize money it hoped to receive for finishing fourth in the league.
Mr Durkan, leader of the nationalist SDLP, said he had discussed the issue today with Derry City officials and the Football Association of Ireland.
"I have been assured by the FAI that they want to see Derry City in the League of Ireland," he said.
"A vibrant successful senior football club is vital to the city. We have been deprived of senior football in the past and we cannot allow it to happen again.
"There is now a responsibility on all relevant parties to work out a sensible way forward and to ensure that senior football is guaranteed in Derry not just next season but for the foreseeable future."
Earlier the league director Fran Gavin told the BBC that Derry City had simply broken the rules, despite the club's denials of wrong-doing.
Derry City FC Chairman Pat McDaid told a press conference yesterday the club planned to challenge the expulsion decision.