FAI set for €40m jackpot from new UEFA TV deal
THE FAI have welcomed a UEFA initiative that will guarantee the association substantial revenue from TV rights money, a development which will help Abbotstown alleviate some of their ongoing financial concerns.
Chief executive John Delaney has claimed the FAI could earn up to €40m over a four-year period from 2014-18 when the new arrangement kicks in.
Essentially, UEFA have taken the step of centralising rights to all qualifying matches for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, meaning a greater spread of the wealth and ensuring that smaller nations such as Ireland are not reliant on a glamour draw for revenue.
Ireland have profited in recent years from drawing Germany in Euro 2008 and coming up against France in the World Cup 2010 play-off, but the current group has proved to be a disaster in terms of generating income.
UEFA still have to fully thrash out terms with the various broadcasters and sports agencies around the continent. They needed time to persuade the bigger associations, such as England, to come around to the idea. The English FA will receive in the region of £100m over the four years as recognition of what they might expect to command in normal terms.
Yet the real winners are the associations further down the food chain, and Delaney says it will go towards ensuring that the FAI meet their target of wiping out Aviva Stadium debt by 2020. He also maintained that Irish qualifying matches will remain free to air under the revised terms. Friendly match rights will still be handled separately.
Nevertheless, testing times lie ahead. A number of staff have left the FAI due to cost-cutting measures, and more job losses are feared.
The FAI have borrowed extensively to fund the building of the Aviva Stadium, and were supposed to finance their end of the bargain by the sale of 10-year Vantage Club tickets. However, that mission failed, with the tickets priced excessively and sales falling well short of projections.
A significant problem for the FAI is that 10-year-ticket holders, who bought their seats in 2004, have to decide whether to renew in 2014 at multiples of the price they initially paid.
With many of these individuals drawn from financial institutions, the prospects of retention are considered to be poor. Additional revenue through the TV rights deal will help considerably.
The FAI also have to manage the interest payments on their borrowings, and will be hoping for a vastly improved attendance at this Saturday's qualifier with Macedonia and next Tuesday's friendly with Uruguay to boost the cash flow. Only 20,000 people turned up for last month's Nations Cup tie with Wales.