FAI draw shutters as Delaney goes on defensive
THE FAI Board departed from its usual custom of holding a press conference after its AGM yesterday in the Arklow Bay Hotel, seemingly as a direct result of its disapproval with a report in this newspaper last week.
Explaining the Board's decision, chief executive John Delaney said yesterday: "the Board has taken the decision that it is not in the best interests of the Association to do an additional press conference following this AGM. I don't want to be critical of the media because the majority do a very good job.
"However, with some help from those who wish to be mischievous, damage can be done to our sport and our organisation. One such example occurred only last week when we read, and I quote – 'growing concern' in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in an article headed, 'Department 'feels a little in the dark' about FAI's debt'.
"This was most surprising since the reality is that we have an excellent professional relationship with the ministers and the Department, who are fully informed and are not in the dark whatsoever and who have confirmed this to be the case. The end result for outside observers, potential sponsors and influencers is a damaging and inaccurate picture of your organisation."
In general, Delaney painted a positive picture of the FAI's difficult year in 2012, pointing out, among other things, that the operating profit of €6.2m was the highest in its history, and that the process of starting work on the first part of the Academy at the National Sports Campus has commenced. However, there were a few pot-shots, including one, couched in very diplomatic language, aimed at Giovanni Trapattoni.
After the disappointment of the European Championships and the defeat to Germany, he reported that the Board "took a considered approach, taking into account that the team was still in contention to qualify and chose unanimously to back the manager."
He then gave a hint of the iron fist in the velvet glove: "The Board welcomes the response to its considerations which were expressed in a workmanlike discussion with the manager and there is now a genuine sense of optimism for the future . . . "
He also sent a warning shot across the bows of the Government in relation to its plans to ban alcohol sponsorship in sport.
"A straight ban on sponsorship would have very negative repercussions for our ability to bid successfully for Dublin to be a host city at Euro 2020, a process that will begin in September this year. In total, such a ban would only serve to take €35m a year out of Irish sport. These much-needed funds would sadly not be replaced through alternative sources."
Although the Association's net debt stands at over €63m, the AGM was given a very upbeat appraisal of its bid to be debt-free by 2020. From 2014, UEFA TV rights revenue will come on stream, which it was claimed could come to a total of up to €70m by 2020. Sale of renaming rights, resale of premium seats and Vantage Club seats are the other main hopes for a brighter financial picture in the years ahead.
Pat Kelly, a member of the Schoolboys FAI and Secretary of Waterford Schoolboys League, was honoured with life membership, while next year's AGM and Festival of Football is planned for Westmeath in July.
The contentious amendment to Rule 32, known as the 49km rule, which led to a dispute with the SFAI, was withdrawn because of the SFAI's decision to hold an EGM on the matter.