Donal Conway insists it’s not yet possible to put a final figure on the full extent of UEFA’s bail-out of the FAI, but he expects the picture to be clarified in August when an agreement between the two bodies will be signed.
But, speaking after representatives of both UEFA and FIFA attended Saturday’s AGM in Trim, the FAI president denied that it’s European football’s governing body which is now effectively in charge in Abbotstown.
Questioned about the full extent of the financial rescue package, Conway said he could not confirm that it might amount to as much as €25m.
“I can give some sense of scale by telling you that €10m to €12m would be about right for our annual revenue from UEFA,” he said, after he had been re-elected president at the AGM. “We would like to be able to use money at the point that it is due but for another couple of years we will have to draw advance payments. That is where the figure you are talking about (comes from) — a global figure. That global figure, so instead of it being €12m, it might be €18m or €20m in a particular year, because we will need certain advance payments.”
Despite the financial challenges the FAI faces, both Conway and new vice president Paul Cooke insisted that qualification for the Euro 2020 finals for Mick McCarthy’s Ireland — and, indeed, the senior team’s qualification for subsequent tournaments — was not a factor in their business projections.
“The net dividend (from qualification) would be a significant amount of money for the Association but all the financial planning that we have done is based on non-qualification,” Conway said.
“We have planned on a worst-case scenario. If we do qualify then there is a significant bonus.”
In his address to the AGM on Saturday, general manager Noel Mooney — who is on secondment to the FAI from UEFA — had made reference to how, in what he termed “our hour of need”, FIFA and UEFA were “safeguarding Irish football.” When it was put to Donal Conway at his press conference afterwards that it is really European football’s governing body which is now calling the shots at the FAI, he replied: “No. UEFA want to monitor what’s happening but they don’t want to interfere. It’s only under extraordinary circumstances that UEFA or FIFA come in and interfere in a member association. The plan will be signed off on by both parties, UEFA and the FAI.”
He continued: “UEFA look very carefully at what you do with their money, absolutely, and even down to the most basic of reforms,” he said. “Take the 2020 hosting: if a stadium fee comes in, it now goes to a dedicated account which is for nothing else except the stadium fee. So that is going to be more closely monitored than before.”
Vice president Paul Cooke added: “If things are allocated for pots, they will be dealt with in pots.” Conway reiterated that previous talk of clearing the Aviva Stadium debt by 2020 no longer applies.
“We have said in principle that there is obviously no debt repayment in 2020 or anything close to that,” he said. “It’s just a mortgage now on a stadium that we’re going to have for another 30 or 40 years. So let’s run it out and make capital and interest repayments in a way that facilitates us doing other things.”
And the FAI certainly have much to do on all fronts, even after a significant part of the first phase of the extensive reform programme put forward by the Governance Review Group was ratified at Saturday’s AGM, with the election of eight members to an interim 12-person board which will serve for one year.
However, for all the positive talk of the day being another important stage in the FAI’s recovery, there was still some dissension in the ranks, with Finn Harps’ delegate Paul McLoone telling the top table from the floor: “The whole public perception will be, ‘Same old, same old’?.?.?.? I’m not sure this has been a good day at all.”
While Donal Conway was returned unopposed as president, incumbent vice- president Noel Fitzroy took himself out of the race for re-election to that position when it became clear that, with former board member John Earley being nominated again by the Schoolboys constituency, the FAI were on course to fall foul of the Governance Review Group recommendation that a maximum of two members of the old board might, in Conroy’s phase, “transition” to the new one.
Addressing delegates, Fitzroy said he found himself in “an impossible position” and was obliged to make a decision which while “devastating to me personally” he was making “in the best interests of our Association.”
In the subsequent election, Paul Cooke was appointed Vice-President after defeating Gerry McAnaney by 80 votes to 57, with two spoiled votes.
In addition, the six people elected to the board by their respective constituencies were: Martin Heraghty and Dick Shakespeare (National Leagues), Munster Senior League chairman John Finnegan and Dave Moran (Amateur Adult Football), John Earley (Schoolboys and Schoolgirls) and Joe O’Brien (Others and Affiliates).
Four further independent members will be added in the coming weeks to complete the 12-person board, with gender balance a major consideration if its final composition is to comply with the Governance Review Group Report.