FAI targets €1bn for facilities

The FAI is finalising a 10-year masterplan aimed at attracting €1bn of government grants for overhauling substandard facilities
FAI targets €1bn for facilities

MASTERPLAN: The FAI is finalising a 10-year masterplan aimed at attracting €1bn of government grants for overhauling substandard facilities. Pic: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

The FAI is finalising a 10-year masterplan aimed at attracting €1bn of government grants for overhauling substandard facilities.

Transforming facilities and infrastructure was a core pillar of the association’s strategy document unveiled earlier this year – with an audit of venues scheduled by the end of this month.

Producing a League of Ireland infrastructural plan within 2022 was another stated promise and upgrading the decaying state of national league grounds is uppermost on the priority list.

Damien Duff is among the stream of figureheads to criticise the conditions at venues and his new habitat at Tolka Park as Shelbourne manager is an example of how unfit for purpose premises are for fans.

The Ireland legend struck a nerve by decrying grounds as “lightyears behind the GAA” and FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill soon cited parity with state investment in that body as an objective.

Their desire will soon translate into a blueprint with an ambitious plan seeking a programme spanning a decade centred around €100m per annum investment.

It is understood government officials have been sounded out about the proposal and discussion is well underway at board level of the FAI.

Clubs and affiliates at all levels will have to apply directly through the Sports Capital Programme for funds but the purpose of the initial approach is to justify the ringfencing of state spend on football.

Two developments of recent years have added credence to the tilt.

Firstly, Brexit restrictions on the movement of talent under the age of 18 has shifted the responsibility of youth development onto national leagues clubs without the infrastructural and industry props in place to replicate what UK clubs provide.

Outgoing Taoiseach Micheál Martin last year acknowledged the changed landscape, telling Newstalk the State “can step up to the plate to underpin the operation.” Second is the high likelihood of Ireland becoming co-hosts of Euro 2028.

Sports Minister Jack Chambers recently quantified the economic benefit of staging games at Aviva Stadium and Croke Park to be a minimum of €361m. Uefa will make its decision next September, with the UK and Ireland bid hot favourites to stave off competition from Turkey.

“Facilities became a real talking point when we announced our part of the hosting joint bid with the UK federations for Euro 2028,” Hill told Cork’s 96FM in April.

“There are certain people who asked how we could do that when we don’t have the facilities within our own grounds, not fit for purpose toilets and we can’t get families to come along.

“I accept all of that but my point was that the two don’t need to be mutually exclusive.

“If we were part of a successful Euro ‘28 hosting, that would allow us to go to the Government in particular to say if this is to really work and have a long term effect, then we need the facilities to reflect what we’re trying to do.

“If we can get closer to the amount of investment that goes into the GAA, to have more like parity which would be much fairer than the current situation, I’d be really happy.” 

Happiness would be an understatement if the FAI lurch get within proximity of their €100m allocation target. Last year’s entire Sports Capital Programme across all codes amounted to €150m.

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