FAI chief executive John Delaney last night insisted the FAI "can be debt-free by 2020" and defended the decision not to allow journalists ask questions about the association’s financial state at its most recent AGM.
In a wide-ranging and at times testy interview with 2FM’s Game-On show, Delaney also:
* Reacted angrily when questioned about his €360,000-a-year salary
* Predicted the Aviva Stadium will sell-out for glamour clashes against England, Scotland, Poland and Germany next year
* Defended ticket prices for Ireland matches
* Labelled the League of Ireland “a difficult child”
* Said Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane are expected to guide Ireland to the Euro 2016 finals in France
FAI accounts for the year ending 2013 revealed debts of €50 million, but Delaney believes levels are manageable.
“We can be debt-free by 2020,” he said. “If we choose we can be out of debt by 2020. We’re fine, and next year’s a very good financial year for the FAI.”
Delaney reacted with exasperation when asked about the decision not to allow questions from the media on the issue at the FAI’s most recent AGM in July.
He said: “An AGM is for the members, and I’ve done many press conferences — I’m doing another today. You can only answer the same question so many times. Really and truly, you can only answer it so many times.
“Two or three of the guys — I’m not bashing the media — but two or three would run with a certain agenda. The key point is we’re paying less interest and we owe less money, that’s all that matters.”
Delaney was also frustrated when questioned about the vexed issue of his salary.
“I’ve answered this 150 times. Here we go again, y’know, we’re off again. We could go on again about it. I could answer 150 times, say. ‘I’m rewarded by my board, I’ve been offered bigger jobs’, which I have.
“I could go on again but that’s a negative. I was hoping we could talk about a few more positive things within the game rather than the same old questions that come up all the time.”
Delaney was asked about a general sense of apathy towards the national team reflected in attendance figures but predicted that would change in 2015 when the big guns come calling.
“They’ll come next year. When we’ve got England, Scotland, Poland and Germany — those four games will sell out next year beyond doubt because they’re big matches.”
Delaney also rejected suggestions that ticket prices were excessive.
“It’s €10 for a child. That’s the best value in Irish sport. Our season ticket was €136 to see six international matches and an FAI Cup final. You won’t get better value. [Giovanni] Trapattoni did a very good job but maybe the style of play, maybe not qualifying for 10 years between 2002 and 2012, did take from the support. But, under Martin and Roy, if we start winning matches and the team is getting near to qualification, the public will respond and they’ll fill the Aviva out, no question.”
Asked about the profile of the League of Ireland, Delaney replied: “The League of Ireland is a difficult child for the organisation. We’ve brought a better structure to the management of the finances but it’s a difficult sell. The clubs have to take responsibility.”
Referring to the expectations of O’Neill and Keane, Delaney said: “The aim has to be to qualify. The association didn’t bring Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane in just to compete. We’re there to qualify. That’s the aim.”
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