Euro progress can ease FAI cash crisis

Martin O’Neill will need to guide his Ireland side through next month’s Euro 2016 play-off for the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) to feel any real commercial benefits.

It’s understood the two-legged decider, taking place from November 12-17, will result in merely a modest income boost for the cash-strapped organisation, principally due to Uefa’s centralised television rights deal.

Whereas previously the association could broker their own television rights accord, as occurred for the 2009 World Cup play-off against France when an estimated 10m was banked from French and German companies, all revenues are covered under the centralised Uefa deal since 2014.

That pact guarantees the FAI €10m per year, but represents a pittance compared to the largesse on offer for the recent qualifier against Germany and the play-off date in November.

Revenue from ticket sales will also be restricted by existing arrangements.

Chief executive John Delaney recently confirmed to the Irish Examiner that at least 9,000 season tickets had been sold, part of which covered any play-off game.

In a bid to arrest an alarming decline in attendances at Lansdowne Road, the association has, in the last two seasons, made available season tickets for as low as €115.

This covers six home matches up to next summer, as well as the FAI Cup final.

Just like premium tickets, of which the FAI claim 6,300 were sold, bulk tickets are pitched at a considerable discount on single versions.

Those commitments mean that almost one third of the 50,000 seats are already accounted for, thereby vastly reducing the volume of tickets the FAI can cash in on by pitching to the public.

Consequently, an expected full-house is set to gross the FAI around €1.8m in ticket revenue.

Given they last year shelled out three times that amount on interest and charges relating to their stadium debt, it doesn’t constitute much of a windfall.

Only in the scenario where Ireland prevail over their play-off opponents — either Ukraine, Sweden, Hungary or Bosnia and Herzegovina — would a real dent be possible on the €51.2m they owed at the end of 2014.

Euro progress can ease FAI cash crisis

While Delaney recently seemed unsure whether qualification would be worth more on this occasion in prize money compared to the €8m earned in 2012, Uefa already confirmed a sharp increase in the order of 50%.

As well as €12m guaranteed for just getting to France, lucrative increments for each point gained and finishing at least third in the group carry potential for that figure to be substantially increased.

Ireland’s dismal display three years ago not just cost the team their pride, but also millions in potential income at a time when the clear extent of the FAI’s deep financial troubles were beginning to emerge.

Although Abbotstown chiefs remain confident of securing another debt write-down by switching lender, crippling annual interest payments are set to continue, highlighting the benefits of qualification for major tournaments.

More than €22m has been lost to the game on interest and other charges since the stadium reopened in 2010, following a €411m rebuilding project, out of which the FAI’s share of costs stood at €74m.

If they are to increase the paltry League of Ireland prizefund, as advised in the recent Conroy Report, along with restoring the paycuts visited upon their coaching development officers, then such income streams are integral to their financial health.

Meanwhile, Martin O’Neill, wasn’t too bothered about the identity of Ireland’s play-off opponents when asked yesterday.

Confirming that he will attend Sunday morning’s draw in Nyon, Switzerland, the Derryman said: “We’re in the play-offs now and we’ll have to wait and see what the draw brings us.

“I’m not going to spend the days leading up to Sunday hoping for one team over another.

“Each one of the four seeded teams will present a challenge, and the four unseeded teams also present a severe test for the top four.

“We’re not concerned about whether we’re seeded or unseeded at this stage, and we’re confident to take on anyone.”


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