Aborted eircom park project cost FAI €7.2m, delegates told

DELEGATES to the AGM of the FAI in Dublin today will be told that the aborted attempt to build eircom park cost the association €7.2 million.

FAI officers have now tied up all strands of the disastrous project and the fallout indicates just how expensive it was. The FAI would need the profits from at least four World Cup final tournaments to cover the loss.

The other financial reports before the meeting will offer delegates more pleasant reading. There are the profits from a very intensive programme of home international matches encompassing the World Cup qualifying ties and the play-off against Iran. As well there is the potential income from the deal with Sky that is now under fire from the Government. FAI officers are satisfied that Sky's four-year deal for 7.5m represents the market value of the home internationals and means they can expect a sum of this order from whatever source once all the legal ramifications are clarified.

Officers will also report on the receipt of the first tranche of money from the Government in line with their four-year agreement for 15m a year for supporting the proposed Stadium Ireland. This money is exclusively for development and capital works.

The officers are expected to be asked to explain the reasons behind the Sky deal because of the protests many have received from people annoyed the matches will not be live on RTÉ.

They will be told the new contract is just one stream of money the association can expect from television. Sky already has an agreement with the FAI for the rights to screen the matches live in England. That contract was signed two years ago for a gross sum of 8m and it has two more years to run.

These contracts were negotiated for the FAI by Laurence St John, an English-based agent who first came to the notice of the association through his work for Manchester United.

An FAI officer at Old Trafford for a match between United and Real Madrid several years ago was told that the gate receipts for the game at almost £750,000 were less than United had received from Spanish TV for rights to the game. The officer asked for an introduction to Mr St John and the relationship developed from there.

The FAI officers believe Mr St John has represented them shrewdly in the market place. Last January, in Oporto for the draw for the upcoming European Championship, he closed an agreement the night before the draw for the European rights to Ireland's matches with a commercial TV station for 1m.

The two-year deal was regarded as a boon to the FAI when they found themselves in a group with Russia, Switzerland, Albania and Georgia. These are not countries with the potential to yield worthwhile sums from TV and advertising sources. The FAI can also expect an enhanced sum for the rights to screen their matches in the US.

Joe Delaney will be elected a life member of the FAI at the meeting. He is a former honourable treasurer of the FAI and has been a lifelong member of the Munster Football Association. Des Casey, the association's long-serving honourable secretary and a former UEFA officer, will step down after a distinguished career as administrator. There will be a contest for the position with Michael Cody, long-time delegate of Cobh Ramblers to the FAI, and Kevin Fahy, of the Irish Schoolboys' Association, offering themselves for election.

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