FAI to seek government help to deal with cost of Covid-19

FAI to seek government help to deal with cost of Covid-19
FAI CEO Gary Owens. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

FAI interim chief executive Gary Owens has informed staff of their intention to “optimise government supports” to combat the financial malaise from the Covid-19 pandemic.

In an email on Sunday to the FAI’s 207 employees, Owens insisted the association is not unique in having to deal with the unprecedented crisis.

The government have announced a wage subsidy scheme, whereby employers can claim a capped refund on salaries of up to 70% once they incur a 25% reduction in turnover due to the coronavirus.

All coaching courses run by the FAI, a key revenue generator, have been postponed and new commercial sponsorship announcements shelved.

The Irish Rugby Football Union confirmed on March 10 that all staff, including professional players, had deferred wage proportions of between 10 and 50%, from April.

The FAI earlier this month secured a refinancing package with Bank of Ireland worth €52.5m but have yet to have their state funding reinstated.

That annual grant, doubled to €5.8m, subsidises the wages of their 60 development officers.

“The big question for us at the moment is what impact the lockdown will have on the financial performance of the association,” said Owens.

“We are no different to any business and this comes very quickly after completing our funding proposals with the Bank of Ireland.

“We are working hard on plans to minimise implications and the optimise government support initiatives available to us.

“We will update you later this week.”

Meanwhile, Premier League clubs could reach “crisis-talks stage” of redundancies and ripped-up contracts if they cannot complete the current season, football finance expert Dr Rob Wilson has warned.

League bosses are considering a World Cup-style football festival to wrap up the campaign in a month when sport can resume.

England’s top-flight is currently postponed until April 30 but that suspension is likely to be extended.

Dr Wilson believes Premier League clubs could stand to lose £1billion (€1.12bn) in revenue should this season be scrapped — as opposed to a likely maximum £200m (€224.55m) for completing this term and truncating the next.

“Failing to complete this season would leave clubs at crisis-talks stage,” Dr Wilson said.

“Clubs would be faced with asking questions like ‘can players be paid, do they have to be made redundant, do we have to finish contracts early’.

“So the intention will be that the season is finished, even if that’s much, much later.

“You could imagine the Premier League generating almost £1bn (€1.12bn) less television revenue income this year, as a consequence of games not being staged. Hence the pressure on finishing the season.

“Football clubs don’t tend to plan long-term financially, and that’s why they are being found out a bit now. You will see Premier League clubs becoming more and more stressed as this goes on, because they simply haven’t planned for that downturn in trade. And they should have.”

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