Despite securing a recent €12.5m write down on their stadium debt, Football Association of Ireland chief executive John Delaney has revealed his target of having the loans cleared by 2020 could be pushed out.
The FAI’s original strategy to meet their €72m portion of the Lansdowne Road development costs in 2010 came unstuck when their premium tickets scheme massively under performed.
That income shortfall resulted in significant borrowings which left the association owing €59m to Danske Bank in their latest published accounts, to year-end 2012.
Although the transfer of that debt to QED Equity, an investment firm founded by Dermot Desmond, and US investment house Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), reduced the FAI debt to around €45m, financial challenges remain. Delaney admitted an extension to the debt plan will be considered to allow some breathing space.
“It’s a question of whether we want to clear it by 2020 or not,” said Delaney at the launch of the St Kevin’s Boys Academy Cup tournament.
“At some juncture, the board may say why would we clear it? Why not invest more money into the game? That will become a decision for the Association as we trade through nearer to 2020. But if we want to clear it by 2020, we will clear it by 2020.
“We’re bound by confidentiality at present in terms of what the net result of it [the debt write down] is. At our AGM in July, we’ll present our annual accounts and will be able to talk in greater detail about it at that stage. Suffice to say, it’s a very good outcome for the Association.”
Regaining the public’s interest in Irish football is integral to charting a path towards financial stability and, to that end, reaction to the appointment of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane has been encouraging.
Following the upcoming friendly against Serbia on March 5, which O’Neill will announce his squad for in Limerick on February 20, Delaney confirmed Turkey are also to visit Lansdowne Road on May 25.
The proposed friendly against Italy is to go ahead six days later, with all the signs pointing towards another trip stateside in June.
“The Italian game is actually just down to the venue at this stage,” said Delaney. “It could be Zurich, Monte Carlo or even London. We’ll know which one of the three within the next couple of days. The United States tour looks positive. It would be unfair to say the opposition as we’re not as advanced. The agents obviously come with proposals but we’d like to play at least one game in America.”
Delaney also explained that England are near certainties to visit Dublin in March of next year, should the nations avoid each other when the qualifying groups are known in three weeks’ time.
“We have a reciprocal agreement with the English FA,” said Delaney regarding what would be the first Dublin meeting between the nations since the famous 1995 friendly was abandoned due to rioting by the visiting supporters.
“We went and played in Wembley last May and, with the best endeavours, they’ll come on March date of next year. First of all we have to see if we draw them this month. Murphy’s law is we’ll probably get them now.”
Switching to domestic matters, O’Neill and Keane will turn the sod on the FAI’s own six-pitch Academy project in Abbotstown on March 3.
Delaney also pleaded with schoolboy clubs in Cork to rethink their decision to withdraw from the SFAI Cup fixtures due to be contested this weekend. He is insistent that the Dublin and District Schoolboys League didn’t gain any favourable treatment from the FAI, which is the basis upon the Rebels’ strike action.
“It was made clear by the FAI at the time that there would a partial seeding by the DDSL of that draw,” explained Delaney.
“Stop this threat of withdrawing because kids suffer. Children have the right to participate. If there are issues between personalities or problem between leagues, they should be resolved in the board-room, not using the playing pitch to resolve them. That threat, to me, is just wrong.”
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