Dundalk aim to replace artificial pitch by the start of the 2017 season

In a lengthy statement today, the club announced they have taken full ownership of the lease of Oriel Park and also took aim at former owner Gerry Matthews

Dundalk

Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie 

Dundalk will look to make some improvements to Oriel Park after today announcing that the club have taken full ownership of the ground.

In a lengthy statement this afternoon, the club announced that they had plans to redevelop Oriel Park and the Youth Development Centre building. The hope is that the artificial pitch on which they currently play will be replaced before the start of the 2017 season.

The club also took aim at former owner Gerry Matthews, whom they have been locked in a protracted legal battle with since Paul Browne and Andy Connolly took control of the club in August 2012.

"Having reached a settlement to purchase the lease and YDC, the club agreed to a statement with Mr Matthews to be released on Monday 21st November," the statement read.

"Inevitably, Mr Matthews leaked that agreement last week and, disgracefully in our view, this was shared on social media by a local media representative."

Money made from their run in Europe this season has helped them pay outstanding planning levy charges owed by Mr Matthews to Louth County Council. They now look set to begin on a path toward installing a grass pitch surface.

Dundalk FC statement 

Dundalk Football Club are delighted to confirm that we have concluded the process to resolve all of the long-standing legal problems surrounding the lease of Oriel Park. As a result of this process, Dundalk Football Club have taken full ownership of the lease of Oriel Park and the YDC building.

Since the takeover of the club from Gerry Matthews in August 2012, Dundalk FC have achieved unprecedented levels of success on the pitch. This has been achieved despite the backdrop of a very serious legal dispute that was inherited by the current administration at Dundalk FC.

The new administration fully expected the transfer of the lease of Oriel Park into our name following the takeover. This was not forthcoming from the previous owner. Without ownership of the lease, Dundalk FC were unable to make any improvements to Oriel Park. This includes any upgrade of the pitch. Therefore, a resolution of this issue was vital to both the short and long term future of the club.

Having reached a settlement to purchase the lease and YDC, the club agreed to a statement with Mr Matthews to be released on Monday 21st November. Inevitably, Mr Matthews leaked that agreement last week and, disgracefully in our view, this was shared on social media by a local media representative.

In this planned statement, we stated that the agreement with Mr Matthews was based on “genuine goodwill”. While we wished to put a positive note on this agreement, given Mr Matthews behaviour over the years repeatedly making inaccurate statements in the press, interfering with the licensing process, wrongly claiming that money was owed to him and, even last week, attempting to portray this agreement as the settlement of a debt to him – we are compelled to state that, unfortunately, there was absolutely no goodwill between Dundalk Football Club and Mr Matthews at the conclusion of this process.

The club have also made a full settlement with Louth County Council for the money that Mr Matthews owed to them for outstanding planning levy charges.

The club are very grateful for the support of Des Casey and his family during this process. This has been a very traumatic and stressful time for the Casey family over the past ten years and we appreciate their support during this dispute. Dundalk FC have recognised Des’ and his families contribution to the club over the past 80 years by naming him as our new Honorary President.

We would also like to thank John Delaney and the FAI for their support. The FAI worked closely with Louth County Council and found a solution to the problems relating to the planning levies that Mr Matthews owed. Following legal advice, we decided to resolve this situation ourselves without any outside assistance. However, it must be pointed out that the FAI did take an active interest in this situation and provided a lot of support and advice in order to find a resolution.

Dundalk FC have already been visited by pitch specialists in order to move forward with a new playing surface that we hope will be in place for the start of the 2017 season. We are also undertaking a feasibility study on how we can make best use of the YDC building for the good of our club and community. Everybody at the club is looking forward to the future as we attempt to build on the incredible progress we have made over the past four years.

The resolution of the long-standing legal problems surrounding the lease of Oriel Park plus the debts relating to the YDC Building has been welcomed by all parties who have worked together to find a solution to a problem that threatened the future of Dundalk Football Club.

Dundalk FC would like to note the assistance carried out on behalf of the club by FAI CEO John Delaney and the personal interest he took in helping the club. John has been a constant support in our ongoing discussions with the Louth County Council.

"I am delighted to have worked with Dundalk FC during these exciting times for the club," said Delaney.

"The club has represented the SSE Airtricity League in a manner befitting their 'Champions' status, and they have represented the country in such a positive light that the whole country is proud of them.

“It's also great to see the club represented at international level, and they will have the full support of the all SSE Airtricity League clubs and the FAI in their upcoming UEFA Europa League games.”

Club Chairman and co-owner Paul Brown stated that: “the resolution of this problem will allow us to continue our development plan to keep Dundalk Football Club moving forward in the right direction, both on and off the field. We have come a very long way in a very short time, but we want to ensure the long-term growth of the club and in resolving this problem, we are now able to kick-start the process of applying for government grants and unlocking other additional funding means”.

2016 is the 80th year that Dundalk Football Club have played at Oriel Park since the land was provided to the club by the Casey Family back in 1936. Dundalk FC’s new Honorary President Des Casey said he was “pleased and relieved after such a fractious period that the integrity of the lease on Oriel Park had been restored” and he wished the Directors of the club continued success in their future endeavors.

He also sincerely thanked them for nominating him as Honorary Club President which he considered a great honour and he would do his best to fulfill the role as well as his predecessor and good friend, the late Jim Reilly.