Sports Minister Shane Ross says he cares about Irish football not FAI
The Government “is not in the business of bailing out” the debt-ridden FAI under any circumstances.
That is according to Sports Minister Shane Ross who held talks with a six-strong delegation from the football body at Leinster House last night.
Speaking after what was described as a “tense” meeting, which lasted about 90 minutes, Mr Ross said the delegation requested financial support from the Government in excess of €10m but that he could not agree to this request.
“It was very tense because the FAI is in a very grave and very dark place,” he told RTÉ News. “They were looking for support from the Government which we were unable to give them — in other words, financial support — which we said we were not in the business of bailing out the FAI under any circumstances. Our main concern remains the players, the volunteers, the supporters, those who do a lot for football with no reward.”
In a statement issued through the department, Mr Ross and minister for state Brendan Griffin said the delegation had accepted a number of key items that had to happen at the crisis-hit organisation.
“The KOSI report stated that an unreformed FAI was unfit to receive government funding,” sad the statement. “That process of reform is still far from complete. The government cannot provide direct financial support to the FAI.
“We are finalising a mechanism to get our youth field programme funding to the front line. Our priorities are players at every level, staff in the organisation, volunteers across the country and supporters.”
Mr Ross will be seeking “an early meeting with Uefa in the coming days to intensify the search for a solution to the deep problems inflicted on the FAI”.
FAI vice president Paul Cooke described the meeting as “constructive” but was “not at liberty to say” what was discussed.
“We are not meeting the Minister [again] in the short term but there will be meetings,” he said.
Look, everything that went on has been well documented. That was in the past. We are moving forward now.
Earlier, Mr Ross called the FAI “a basket case” that was “in a very grave situation”.
“What I’m interested in is the future of Irish football,” he said. “I’m not interested in the future of the FAI. It’s a basket case, it’s in a really grave place.
“What I want to see is that the grassroots of Irish football are looked after, that those things that you see here in Waterford and that we see elsewhere in Ireland that happen on Saturdays and Sundays and every day of the week, with the volunteers and grassroots, are doing fantastic work.
“The FAI has, unfortunately, done some things which are not easy to reconcile with that magnificent work which is done at the grassroots. I don’t care about the FAI. I care about Irish football.”