Sport Soccer

Tuesday 17 October 2017

No questions were directed at the top table of the FAI AGM for the third year running

FAI Chief Executive John Delaney during the FAI AGM at The Hotel Minella in Clonmel, Co Tipperary. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
FAI Chief Executive John Delaney during the FAI AGM at The Hotel Minella in Clonmel, Co Tipperary. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

John Fallon

Security was tight around the Hotel Minella in Clonmel on Saturday for the FAI’s annual general meeting, with suited personnel guarding doors and listening to instructions in their earpieces.

The operation at the family-run hotel resembled that normally reserved for the visit of a foreign dignitary rather than a gathering of 125 volunteer delegates across the Irish football family.

Recent history has shown the rancour associated with the cut and thrust of sporting meetings doesn’t apply to FAI AGMS. Not alone has debate long left proceedings but questions are also non-existent. For the third year in a row, none were posed towards the top table.

Over a two-hour period, various speakers came to the microphone to deliver their tidings. Some didn’t need to. Although they were sitting nearby, the four Chairmen of the standing committees had their summaries conveyed to the audience on a screen through pre-recorded segments.

Each spoke about the body of work undertaken in their particular field, be it finance, legal, underage or League of Ireland.

The FAI’s debt status was touched on by a number of the contributors, all eager to talk up the positives within the recent refinancing deal. Quite how the FAI got themselves into a position whereby the costs of servicing that debt equate to €100,000 per week didn’t feature.

For all the importance of UEFA’s centralised television deal and qualification prize money, the financial viability of the FAI, like any football body, is dependent on getting bums on seats at home internationals.

Bumper attendances for the Euro qualifiers during against Poland, Scotland, Germany and Bosnia-Herzegovina drove revenues for the 12 months, a reminder that a successful senior team is essential for cashflow.

Martin O’Neill had left Tipperary before the AGM kicked off on Saturday, having spent a couple of days in the county, but his role in making the accounts solid cannot be underestimated.

By staying competitive in the upcoming World Cup qualification campaign, the fans will keep coming. It’s for that reason monologue within a closely-guarded conference room during a Saturday afternoon in July is far less significant to events on the pitch.

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