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FAI give red card to betting companies in search for new main sponsor

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The FAI headquarters in Abbotstown, Dublin

The FAI headquarters in Abbotstown, Dublin

The FAI headquarters in Abbotstown, Dublin

The FAI have decided against partnering with a gambling company as their new primary sponsor.

Three's departure from the scene has left the cash-strapped football association in need of a main commercial partner for their international teams.

It was reported before Christmas that Paddy Power were interesting in filling the void – they had been mulling over the idea for several months – and it’s understood that a second company had also indicated they would be keen.

But the FAI hierarchy have closed the door on further talks by taking a stance on going down that route, forming the view that it would send out the wrong message.

Sport's relationship with betting companies has come under fresh scrutiny across the water with renewed speculation that a ban on shirt sponsorships could be imminent. Half of the Premier League’s clubs would be affected by a change.

In 2018, the GAA voted to ban sponsorship deals with the gambling industry. The FAI had operated several partnerships across the previous decade and attracted criticism a year later when announcing a deal with African company Sport Pesa.

That was severed before the two-year term was completed, with a "re-evaluation of sponsorship focus" cited as a factor when details of a split emerged last February.

Three announced in late 2019 that they were bringing down the curtain on a partnership that was worth in the region of €2m per year to Abbotstown. Talks on a new deal worth €2.5m per year collapsed in the aftermath of a turbulent time for the football body.

New FAI CEO Jonathan Hill was largely hired on the strength of his commercial acumen and sourcing a main sponsor was at the top of his to-do list with the board believing football has not realised its true potential in this area.

But they do not believe that pairing with a bookmaker would be appropriate, even though Covid-19 has made the financial situation even more difficult for an Association with debts teetering around the €70m mark.

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The FAI will today present League of Ireland clubs with a proposed financial package to help them cope with a new season that is likely to be played behind closed doors until at least the summer.

However, there is still no certainty around the level of Government support that will be available and there’s an anticipation that some clubs will feel the compensation on offer should be higher.

There is also a lack of certainty around the broadcasting plan for the forthcoming year with matters to resolve in that department.


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