Delaney: We wanted Dublin date but decision was out of our hands
JOHN DELANEY insists that the FAI tried their best to get tomorrow's friendly with Brazil staged in Dublin, arguing that the association "had as much input in venue selection as we would have going to Russia".
FAI CEO Delaney is irritated by suggestions that his organisation, who will receive a figure understood to be in the region of €350,000 to provide opposition, could have done more to bring the game to Croke Park, and believes the problem is that the GAA are charging too much for the use of the venue relative to major stadiums in the UK.
Kentaro, a Swiss sports rights agency, chose Arsenal's Emirates Stadium ahead of Old Trafford, Parkhead and Croke Park, which were all invited to tender. Kentaro effectively control the Brazil brand, seeking to capitalise on their commercial appeal. They were behind the money-spinning trip to Qatar to play England last November.
The World Cup draw inadvertently set the wheels in motion for Ireland's third dalliance with the South Americans in six years. Kentaro had pencilled in a Brazil v Portugal clash at the Emirates for this week until those countries landed in the same group. Kentaro, long-standing partners of the FAI, then offered Ireland the opportunity to face Brazil, on their terms.
"They said it was UK venues they were looking at," Delaney told the Irish Independent. "I requested that we put Croke Park in, although they did say they felt it was expensive. But they said they would be invited to tender."
The FAI had met GAA officials in November to tentatively discuss staging further games at Croke Park before the move to the AVIVA Stadium in August. However, after the play-off loss to France, the FAI reasoned that it would be difficult to find opponents to come close to filling the venue and justify the rental price. When Algeria and Paraguay come to Dublin in May, it will be to the RDS.
Brazil would have been a different story but the scenario on this occasion contrasts with February 2008, when they did grace the Croke Park turf. Then, Ireland were the 'home' side who organised the logistics of the match, entering into a profit-share agreement with Kentaro in return for booking the five-times world champions.
"This was an invitation to play," explains Delaney. "There's a huge difference. We get an appearance fee and an allowance towards our costs that isn't affected by the attendance. It's like an away game. People have to understand that."
Delaney refused to divulge the figures, but if Kentaro had opted for Glasgow, the FAI's flat fee would have increased, given that the Irish community in Glasgow would have been key to selling the game. By opting for the Emirates, Kentaro are recognising the sizeable Brazilian community in London.
This is an unwelcome phenomenon in Brazil, where there is resentment that the national team is being taken around the world. The Samba Boys have played only two non-qualifiers on their own soil in the last decade, with the Brazilian Federation (CBF) criticised for risking the alienation of their public. The CBF will net €1.2m from tomorrow's exhibition.
The GAA refused to deal directly with Kentaro, insisting on using the FAI as a conduit. While the FAI paid €1.35m to hire Croker for the France first leg, soccer bosses believe that the rental demands for non-competitive matches are unrealistic.
Kentaro were told they would have to pay approximately €800,000 to secure Croke Park this time, with the cost of the Emirates believed to be around a third of that figure. "The pricing structure put them (the GAA) fourth in the list," says Delaney.
Unsurprisingly, Kentaro went for the cheapest option and the FAI, starved of other lucrative solutions for March, and saddled by the financial difficulties arising from slow 10-year ticket sales for the new AVIVA Stadium, could not afford to refuse the offer, much as they aware of the damaging perception arising from such a game being staged outside the country -- yet in such close proximity -- in these difficult times.
"It would have suited us better for the game to take place in Dublin, but this wasn't our gig," says Delaney. "We had as much input in this venue selection as we would have going to Russia.
"We have a good relationship with Kentaro and wanted them to look at it being played in Dublin, but they said the best bid commercially was the Emirates and that of the four bids, Croke Park was the most expensive.
"I think we've done everything that we possibly could and it's a bit of a slight irritant to me that some people are trying to make it anything other than that."