Delaney: Setanta Cup will go on

FAI CHIEF executive John Delaney is adamant that the Setanta Sports Cup will survive with or without the satellite giant.

It emerged over the weekend that two major investors had written off their stakes in the company and that follows last month’s blow when Setanta lost half of its English Premier League broadcast rights to Sky under the new TV deal.

Delaney confirmed yesterday that fixtures for the 2009 tournament, to begin in August, are being finalised and that the competition would go ahead. The FAI has already signed a deal to participate in the Setanta Sports Cup for a further four seasons.

“Obviously, in this day and age, there are concerns about everybody given the fact that the Bank of Irelands, AIBs and Anglos are getting themselves into difficulties and we have read a lot about Setanta,” he said.

“There are no issues between us either contractually or financially so we have nothing to worry about at this stage. The longer-term view of that tournament is that there will always be someone to sponsor it. We have had plenty of overtures in the last period asking, if Setanta were not to get involved, would it be open to being sponsored by other companies. So, I don’t see any difficulties with that tournament being sponsored.”

First played in 2005, the competition has suffered somewhat due to a lack of consistency with various formats.

This season’s version will be staggered over two calendar years.

Being wedded to midweek fixtures hasn’t helped either although Delaney has signalled that weekend dates are on the agenda this season when the competition will follow “a Champions League” blueprint.

“We are looking for different formats. I would like to think that it has improved from its original. It is up to nine teams now and we are trying to get some weekend (slots) for the tournament. That is an acid test.

“If there ever was a step towards an all-island league type situation that is a good test, to see if it would be supported by the public at the weekends because there are difficulties for travelling supporters on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.”

The final, which was won last season by Cork City, will be held in April or May. Delaney was speaking at the FAI’s headquarters in west Dublin where a new and improved sponsorship deal was announced with kit sponsors Umbro. The agreement, which runs until 2010, replaces the deal which was to expire in 2014. This is the third time in only four years that the parties have renegotiated the terms of their partnership. The new agreement will commence in August next year with the FAI receiving a guaranteed e26.6m over the 10-year period.

That could rise to e34m based on performance related bonuses while Umbro will also renew its sponsorship of the FAI’s junior, intermediate and youth cups, the Kennedy Cup as well as the Colleges and Universities League.

Delaney stressed how such a guaranteed revenue scheme would benefit the grass roots but the sums add up too. The FAI will make almost e300,000 more per annum if they hit their targets. Less than one-tenth of the overall sum will be in the form of kit for the various Irish sides with the remainder paid in cash.

Though the existing agreement had five years to run, Jonathan Courtenay, Director of Football for Umbro Ireland, explained that the company had moved to cut off any prospective rival offers at the root.

The length of the deal is similar to those agreed recently by Brazil, Russia, AC Milan and Celtic.

“It is a competitive market and there will be a lot of interest from other brands. I know, for example, that France recently changed their sponsorship agreement and they weren’t finished their deal until 2011.

“The trend is that people are doing deals earlier and earlier and it is very important for us to continue the growth of the Umbro brand in Ireland and secure the future of the company.”

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