Remember the case of a small amateur club in Northern Ireland fighting the good fight against the Irish FA about the season being abruptly ended and the cup competitions getting voided? Donaghadee were still in the Cups when the Irish FA took the decision, and this set off a legal challenge from the club.
While Mr Bryson represented Donaghadee (the club he manages) for free, that was not the case for the IFA. Having retained expensive lawyers, the gauntlet was laid down by the IFA to challenge them. Institute, a club relegated, didn’t even go down the legal route due to threat of the legal costs involved.
Now the arbitration has decided on this case. While IFA got the victory they were looking for; Judge Nicholas Stewart QC made it clear that the curtailment of the cups was “flawed”. However, Donaghadee could be faced with a bill above £20,000. This would figuratively and literally be spelling doom for a small club like Donaghadee.
Jamie Bryson Of Donaghadee FC Accuses Irish FA Of Bullying & Coercion
When I had a talk with Jame Bryson, he did not mince words, “The IFA instructed a large corporate law firm, a solicitor and a leading QC. That was entirely disproportionate in relation to the complexity of the case.
“But there was a strategy from the start, which actually mirrored the SPFL’s. It was to use their vast resources to bully and intimidate small clubs in order to coerce them into acquiescence. At the core of our challenge was a commitment to the principle that small clubs have the right to be treated fairly. You only need to look at the revelation within the IFA’s internal emails to see the disdain with which they treat junior clubs. Following that they had to issue me a formal apology.
“I was also able to expose that they were in breach of Company Law. This was a black and white issue, which in the end the IFA had to accept. That displays incredible incompetence. The case was very technical and ultimately our focus was always on the Cups. In that regard, we actually got what we wanted. The Judge found that the decision to end them was “flawed”. As such, they must now start, if they do not, then we will have no hesitation in going again.
“What is shocking is the extent of collusion between the IFA and the NAFL, which I suppose is unsurprising given the crossover in membership between the management committee of the NAFL and the IFA board. They literally conspired together to frustrate and impede efforts to conclude the Cup competitions. It is somewhat amusing to read the ‘trolls’ take on the issues. Notwithstanding the fact they wouldn’t have the intellectual capacity to understand the judgement, let alone formulate any argument around it, many have the audacity to mock our efforts. When it’s David v Goliath and you cheer for Goliath, that says a lot about you.
“I am proud of the case we ran. It’s rather incredible that the IFA has the audacity to try and pursue a small club for their legal costs, in circumstances whereby such costs are totally disproportionate. It is an effort at extortion, with the purpose of exercising coercive control over small clubs and sending a message that no club should ever dare challenge them again.
“I actually think that is going to backfire. It’s a fallacy to think they’ll ever get such extortionate costs in any event, but many ordinary people will look at it and see it for what it is- a clear effort to bully a small club and crush them.
“It’s not going to work. It might be next week, next month or next year. But the NAFL and the IFA will make another error, and when they do, we’ll be there waiting. Clubs must have reasonable access to justice in order to enforce their rights under the rules.
“This case was one hell of a fight, and given the same choices, we’d fight it again every day of the week. Absolutely no regrets. Things will never be the same again; someone had to stand up to these people. Sitting in bars and clubhouses moaning about the IFA and NAFL management committee changes nothing, it’s all hot air. The only time things change is when you actually do something about it.
“I am proud of our club and the courage they have shown. We look forward to the next battle!”