FAI denies cash worry as finance boss resigns
THE FAI insisted last night there is no reason to be concerned about its finances, despite the resignation of finance director Mark O'Leary at a crucial point in the association's history.
O'Leary, who held the post for more than five years, will return to a career in industry and commerce, having previously worked for Autobar and Deloitte & Touche.
However, the timing of his departure has raised eyebrows, considering that only last month he presented a detailed business plan to the football association's annual AGM in Wexford, related to managing the debt from the FAI's commitment to the new Aviva Stadium.
The FAI had a net bank debt of €38m at the end of 2009, and pumped another €21.9m into the project subsequently.
At the AGM, O'Leary told delegates the FAI had managed to negotiate an agreement with the financial institutions to pay back monies owed over a long-term period, with the ultimate aim of being debt free within a decade. Therefore, his resignation will have come as a surprise to his audience of that afternoon, although the FAI say that O'Leary had been contemplating his future for four months.
Speaking in Armenia yesterday, FAI communications director Peter Sherrard denied the timing of the announcement -- 24 hours before an Ireland Euro 2012 qualifier -- was designed to minimise the coverage.
Sherrard restated his CEO John Delaney's confidence that the association will have covered all their Aviva Stadium debt by 2020, if not before.
"There is a business plan in place and it's not a business plan of any one person," said Sherrard, "It's the business plan of the association.
"I think Mark went through that in detail in terms of the capacity to repay the debt at the AGM over the 10-year period. That's a business plan we will continue to work with.
"There are personal and private reasons and professional reasons for the timing of the announcement and the way it is being done.
"I think the optics of it have very little to do with it. What really has to do with it is the business plan and the continuation of the business plan."
Earlier, in an FAI statement, O'Leary said he was happy with his work during his tenure, and was sure that he was leaving the association in good nick.
"I have very much enjoyed my time working for the FAI during a period of rapid growth which saw us become joint owners of the €411m Aviva Stadium," he said.
"During the past five years, the Association has grown the sport significantly through a comprehensive €70m investment programme for all strands of grassroots football, as well as successfully funding the FAI's share of the construction costs of Aviva Stadium."