Friday, February 19, 2010

19 February 2006 - Caught Playing A Shell Game

On 19 February 2006, the Football Association of Ireland relegated Shelbourne FC to the second tier, despite the club having just won the 2006 Premier League title.

Established in 1895, the Dublin club is one of Ireland's most successful teams, with thirteen league titles (only Shamrock Rovers have more, with 15). Under manager Pat Fenlon, Shels dominated the League of Ireland in the 2000s, winning the title in 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2004 before winning their thirteenth title overall in 2006 by edging second-place finishers Derry City on goal differential. Their success, however, was not cheap.

Shels had spent freely in the preceding seasons, bringing in several expensive transfers. By the 2006 season, the spending had begun to catch up to them and the club's finances began to show signs of strain and, by the end of the season, Shelbourne owed wages to seventeen players. The financial distress sparked an exodus of several players as well as Fenlon, who took over at Derry City.

The FAI investigated Shelbourne's financial state and, as a consequence, decided to drop the club out of the Premier Division and into the second-tier First Division. Shelbourne has remained in the First Division ever since, finishing 5th in 2007, but has come close to promotion in 2008 and 2009, finishing second both years.

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