Despite another day of caustic soundbites from government officials, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) are increasingly confident that their future will be secured in the coming weeks.
Sunday’s annual general meeting was informed of an imminent threat to the association’s solvency unless a revenue stream of €18m was swiftly sourced.
Projected negative cashflow until at least 2022 compounds mounting debts of around €65m, underlying the scale of the crisis.
Executive lead Paul Cooke revealed that failure to secure a rescue package would likely result in the association seeking the appointment of an examiner.
To continue trading normally in such circumstances, he insisted, could amount to reckless trading and a breach of company law by the seven members of the interim board.
Creditors, including staff, wouldn’t be paid, but there was tentative optimism among FAI chiefs last night of that doomsday scenario being avoided.
Cooke insists the future of the FAI rests on the outcome of “roundtable” talks between various parties.
He indicated Uefa, who have been funding the FAI since their financial crisis began in March, and the Bank of Ireland, are amenable to charting a route out of their difficulties.
Cooke denied seeking a bailout from the government at either of the two meetings in the week leading up to Christmas.
However, he didn’t eliminate the possibility of them supplying a form of guarantor assurance to their bankers.
The state hold what’s termed a “first charge” on the Aviva Stadium, the stake in which represents the FAI’s only major asset.
Although majority shareholder Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) have ruled out purchasing the FAI’s 42.5% stake, that shareholding could be used as collateral for the Bank of Ireland.
“We need a partnership and it depends on the mix,” said Cooke when asked if a guarantor was mandatory.
I’m not being evasive on that. There’s been mentions of bailouts from government but that wasn’t asked for.
“Our bankers are being very helpful. We owe them a lot of money and they’ve switched our loan to interest-only this year.”
Matters are due to intensify in the coming weeks around the time Sports Minister Shane Ross meets Uefa on January 14.
Minister Ross, speaking after Sunday’s AGM, said he wants to see “an acceleration in reform” in exchange for state support.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has ruled out issuing a “blank cheque” and Minister for Health Simon Harris yesterday questioned the context to the FAI’s apology.
Donal Conway agreed to a request at the AGM by Derry City delegate Denis Bradley to issue a public apology.
The outgoing president, due to quit on January 25, said the board apologised for the “mistakes of the past”.
Conway has urged the state to collaborate on the survival plan.
“It’s reasonable that they government will want burden-sharing,” he said.
“We can facilitate that kind of risk-sharing by bringing all the key stakeholders together.”
Meanwhile, Gerry McAnaney has emerged as favourite to succeed Conway as president in an emergency general meeting on January 25.
The long-serving legislator, beaten 80-57 by Cooke in the election for vice-president at the first AGM in July, last night confirmed his interest in the vacancy.
Based in Cork, the retired army officer previously represented the Defence Forces council on the FAI National Council and has more recently been involved in the thriving Football For All sector.
To be eligible for the role of president or vice-president, candidates must be a current council member and have served two years on that committee, albeit not consecutively. As new FAI rules require a gender quota of four female directors by 2021, it was expected Frances Smith would be nominated.
Prospective contenders for the post still have another couple of weeks to be proposed.
The new president, elected by the AGM now rather than council, automatically joins the board for a two-year term, with the option of another two years.
Cooke is adamant he will return to his role of vice-president once the independent chairperson is appointed.
He suggested in a recent statement that the chairperson and the other three independent directors would not come aboard until the refinancing deal was finalised.