FAI bids to clear debt by 2020

Attempting to achieve debt-free status by 2020 is back on the agenda for the Football Association of Ireland following yesterday’s unveiling of their strategic plan.

The association and their chief executive John Delaney had long defended their mounting debts accumulated in the early part of the decade by claiming they would be cleared by the milestone.

An intention to bankroll their €72m portion of the Lansdowne Road redevelopment costs with cashflow nosedived when their grandiose “Vantage Club” ticket scheme flopped.

Once Giovanni Trapattoni failed to guide Ireland to the 2014 World Cup and the FAI secured a writedown on their debt figure a few months later to around €50m, the 2020 forecast disappeared from all their annual reports and yearly summits.

Indeed, the hefty annual interest bill of €5m didn’t reduce and their overall debt stands at €51.2m according to the latest accounts, to year-end 2014.

That was the first year in which the FAI were able to escape an interest-only arrangement, though only €1m was trimmed off the capital sum.

Now Delaney is talking up the prospects of removing the albatross of debt which has forced swingeing cuts across all strands of football in this country, including an 80% cut in prize money for the League of Ireland as well as staff pay reductions and redundancies.

“The board will decide on that nearer the time,” Delaney told RTÉ yesterday, chiming with the plan’s comment that, throughout the life of this strategy, they will aim to be debt free at the end of the 2020.

“We signalled at the AGM that we intend refinancing our debt again and an announcement will be made in due course.

“2020 is a big year because the Aviva Stadium naming rights are up for renewal, as well as 10-year tickets and some sponsorship deals.”

Financial stability isn’t amongst the nine “pillars” contained in their latest charter.

They encompass the various segments of the game, from women’s football to League of Ireland onto the methods for bringing some of the antiquated facilities clubs at all levels offer into the modern era.

Lifting the professional game from the rut it finds itself in could in some fashion depend on how negotiations between Delaney and Barrister Michael Cush unfurl in the coming months.

Renowned SC Cush was appointed by the 12 Premier Division clubs to deal with the association on the fallout of the Conroy Report published in September.

Clubs want clarification on sponsorship revenue received by the FAI. That exercise is integral to whether the merger with the FAI remains intact.

“I’m very open to what the clubs want,” said the CEO. “If they want to stay with the FAI, which I hear they do, and work through for the next number of years to improve the league, I’m happy.

“If the clubs want to form their own league and form their own entity that’s always available for the clubs to do but from what I hear that’s not what they want to do.”

On the development aspect, the strategy includes an intention of introducing an U15 national league, a bold statement given some of the problems which blighted the first year of the U17 league.

Meanwhile, a deal has been struck with the international squad on bonuses for reaching Euro 2016.

Ciaran Medlar of BDO, representing the players, concluded negotiations on a pact estimated to be worth €1.2m including increments for progressing through the group phase in France.

“We are pleased to have finalised this agreement quickly and cordially with the FAI through our representative, Ciaran Medlar,” said Ireland captain Robbie Keane.

Also announced yesterday was another tranche of 1,200 tickets for the three group matches.

It means Irish fans will have 16,487 tickets for the opener against Sweden on June 13, 7,495 for the meeting with Belgium five days later and 9,720 for the concluding group game against Italy in Lille.


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