Uefa and Shane Ross upbeat after 'constructive' meeting

Uefa and Minister for Sport Shane Ross both issued upbeat appraisals of their meeting in Leinster House today but further crunch talks are still required – not least with the Bank of Ireland – to ensure the FAI’s remains afloat.

Minister for Sport Shane Ross and Minister of State for Sport Brendan Griffin address the media after the meeting. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Minister for Sport Shane Ross and Minister of State for Sport Brendan Griffin address the media after the meeting. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Said Minister Ross: “We’re meeting the Bank of Ireland, the principal creditor, and there’s going to be an intensive round of talks over the next few days.

We’re very encouraged by what’s happened. We want to make sure that soccer, the grassroots, are preserved and that the interests of the staff, who have served the FAI very, very well in the past and hopefully in the future, are protected as well.

“We anticipate that within days we’ll have another meeting, possibly with members of Uefa and, finally, if we do get substantial progress, we’ll hopefully have another meeting with all of the stakeholders together.”

The Minister reiterated that the government was not in the business of bailing out the cash-strapped FAI.

“What we’ve said quite specifically is we’re anxious to restore the funding, which we had taken away from them, in order to benefit grassroots soccer.

“We have absolutely maintained rigidly that we’re not going to bail out anybody. That is not on the cards.

“What we are going to do is to ensure the future for the volunteers, the young people. I’m not going to discuss actual figures at the moment on that basis but I can tell you that if we see a way of helping young people and volunteers, the grassroots, we made it clear we might be prepared to augment funding.”

Asked if he could put a time-frame on a solution being found to the FAI’s stated need for an urgent cash injection of €18m in order to stave off the threat of examinership or liquidation, Mr Ross said: “I don't think it's a long way away. I think we're talking about a very intensive time of negotiations and talks between the four parties in the next few days. I don't think we're talking about months or weeks, I think we're talking about something happening fairly soon and getting a good result in the near future.

“We're absolutely determined, as were Uefa and the FAI, and obviously in the interests of that staff, that examinership is off the table. We're also determined that liquidation is off the table.

You're not going to guarantee absolutely anything at this stage but I'm determined that shouldn't happen and I'm fairly confident the goodwill is there to ensure it doesn't.

He added in a statement: “We discussed the extent of Uefa’s capacity and willingness to participate in a financial support package, as proposed in recent meetings with the FAI Board. I am very encouraged from our discussions today that we can now move towards finding a solution.”

Uefa General Secretary Theodore Theodoridis confined himself to a brief comment on leaving Leinster House, describing the talks as “positive” and “constructive”.

The newly appointed independent chairman, Roy Barrett, who was the only member of the FAI board to be invited to sit in on the meeting, said: “It was very constructive today and I think everyone wants to find the right solutions and that’s the path we are on. We will just take things step by step. There will be more meetings between the parties.”

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