Tuesday 21 January 2020

Bank talks central to FAI future after 'positive' Ross-Uefa summit

Meeting: FAI chairman Roy Barrett, Uefa general secretary Theodore Theodoridis, FAI executive lead Paul Cooke, Uefa director of national associations Zoran Lakovic, and Uefa financial director Josef Koller at Leinster House. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Meeting: FAI chairman Roy Barrett, Uefa general secretary Theodore Theodoridis, FAI executive lead Paul Cooke, Uefa director of national associations Zoran Lakovic, and Uefa financial director Josef Koller at Leinster House. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Bank of Ireland will have a key say in the future and survival of the FAI.

A high-powered delegation from Uefa met yesterday with officials from the bank in the aftermath of a Leinster House meeting with ministers Shane Ross and Brendan Griffin.

Mr Ross and Mr Griffin will meet Bank of Ireland officials today in an attempt to construct a deal that provides security over the troubled association's finances.

Both Uefa and the Government want to avoid a scenario where they are seen to 'bail out' the FAI, which told Mr Ross last month it needed €18m.

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However, discussions have looked at a risk-sharing arrangement that would allow the FAI's creditors to have confidence about a refinancing plan.

The FAI has liabilities of €62m and owes €29m to Bank of Ireland, arising from Aviva Stadium debt.

It means the financial institution will be central to an agreement that delivers certainty, with Mr Ross predicting clarity in the coming days after more "intensive talks".

The Uefa delegation will return home today.

Mr Ross denied the General Election announcement would have any impact.

A statement from the Department of Sport said the parties could now "see a potential path to a solution for the FAI".

The Sports Minister said the meeting "discussed the extent of Uefa's capacity and willingness to participate in a financial support package, as proposed in recent meetings with the FAI board".

Uefa is understood to have reservations about providing more advance funds to the FAI after keeping it afloat last summer, and feels the initiative should be taken from the Government side.

In its brief official statement, Uefa said it was encouraged by a "positive meeting" and would continue to work with all stakeholders in the coming days and weeks.

Speaking to reporters at Leinster House, Mr Ross said all parties were determined the prospect of examinership or liquidation be off the table.

But he stopped short of saying he could guarantee anything at this stage of the process.

He said he would tell Bank of Ireland that the Government was determined to avoid the worst-case scenarios and "we are going to give as much support as we possibly can to the efforts being made to keep Irish football afloat".

"We are quite prepared to play our role in that," he said.

"I think we're talking about something happening fairly soon and getting a good result in the near future."

The Uefa delegation was accompanied by the new independent chair of the FAI board, Roy Barrett, with Mr Ross and Mr Griffin requesting that he be the only Abbotstown representative at the talks.

Executive lead Paul Cooke stayed in the nearby Buswells Hotel while the meeting with Mr Ross took place, having held discussions with the visitors earlier in the day.

Uefa general secretary Theodore Theodoridis said it was a "positive, constructive meeting".

Mr Barrett also spoke briefly, adding: "I think everyone wants to find the right solutions and that's the path we are on."

He replied "we'll see" when asked whether the FAI was closer to a deal now than it was 24 hours earlier.

When pressed on whether the task he had inherited was more difficult than he had envisaged when appointed a week ago, the managing director of Goodbody Stockbrokers replied: "Ask me in a week's time, we'll see."

Mr Ross indicated the FAI would come forward with a business plan that protected its staff.

Irish Independent

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