Government and Uefa agreed 'in principle' to share burden of solving FAI's huge debt

Sports Minister Shane Ross has given the strongest indication yet that the government and Uefa are willing to jointly bail out the FAI from their parlous €60m-plus debt.

Government and Uefa agreed 'in principle' to share burden of solving FAI's huge debt

Sports Minister Shane Ross has given the strongest indication yet that the government and Uefa are willing to jointly bail out the FAI from their parlous €60m-plus debt.

A series of meetings took place between all stakeholders last week. Among those involved were the new FAI chairman Roy Barrett, the minister, a four-strong Uefa delegation (including its general secretary Theodore Theodoridis and financial secretary Josef Koller), and the Bank of Ireland.

Barrett has been asked to report back with a formal proposal to resolve the FAI’s perilous financial situation.

“I’m not making proposals at all, that’s up to him (Barrett) but I guess he is going to ask everybody to share some of it (the financial burden),” the Minister for Sport said. “What we really agreed was we’d look at the principle of us all contributing towards this."

Ross said Uefa have agreed to come back to Dublin if necessary to sign off on an agreed deal to save the FAI and stressed that Ireland’s hosting of the Euro 2020s was never endangered or part of their recent discussions.

Ross initially said the Government would not bail out the football association and UEFA is usually vehemently opposed to any political interference in its member associations.

But Ross said a “critical change in the mood music” had contributed to all sides coming close to some form of a burden-sharing solution, particularly because the FAI disbanded its old board and appointed new independent directors.

“That was reflected in the meetings with ourselves, the bankers and UEFA. We recognise this new situation and we wanted to be part of the solution, rather than be at loggerheads with the old FAI,” he said.

A joint bailout now looks on the cards, even though it has since emerged that one former FAI board member – John Earley – has been put forward for a seat on the association’s International and High Performance Committee.

Asked about this recent development, Minister Ross said: “I welcome the fact that he resigned from the board but I’m not going to comment on that particular rather unusual event”.

“We’ve seen the beginning of cultural change with the independent directors but this is not an instant solution,” he stressed. "We are making good progress but it’s not over yet.

“They (the FAI) are not moving fast enough and we’d like to see the new chief executive, whenever he’s appointed, take the bull by the horns and look at this root and branch.

“It’ll be up to the appointment of a new chief executive to make sensible decisions and see the need for a completely new departure for the FAI.

“It’d be wrong to set a deadline but I want it to happen as soon as possible because obviously the financial situation is critical. I want to see Irish football saved as soon as possible,” he concluded.

Ross said he hopes to hear back from Barrett "next week" and confirmed that the FAI will still have 50% of its government funding withheld until they satisfy Sport Ireland that they have resolved all their governance issues.

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