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Tuesday 21 November 2017

FAI must free Euro build-up of money talk

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The thorny issue of bonus payments to players for achieving major tournament qualification is back in the public eye after weekend comments from Liam Lawrence.

In light of reports that the Ireland squad have been initially offered around 5pc of the €8m prize that the FAI received for making Euro 2012, the Portsmouth winger suggested that senior players will be looking for more when they sit down with FAI officials ahead of next week's friendly with Czech Republic.

The figures mentioned would represent a significant drop from the player pool in 2002. Back then, the players who were involved in every game on the road to the finals in Japan and Korea collected a fee of €65,000.

Only one Irish player, Glenn Whelan, was ever-present in the successful attempt to make Poland, and under the terms that are being talked about, he would receive around €15,000.

The bonus is divided between those who contributed to the effort depending on how many games they played. Lawrence, who has fallen out of favour with Giovanni Trapattoni, is entitled to a portion after lining out in the opening three matches.

It's an uncomfortable issue for both sides, with the players aware they will be perceived as greedy, while the FAI are anxious to avoid any talk of squad unrest given how off-the-field developments overshadowed the build-up to 2002.

After Ireland book their place in the tournament, players sit down with the FAI and work out a reward for making the money-spinning finals in addition to a structure for when they are there.

Ten years ago, Michael Kennedy, who represented a number of squad members, negotiated on their behalf. This time around, the players are directly dealing with the FAI hierarchy.

In a sport where players receive 'loyalty' payments from a club they are leaving midway through a contract -- before they sign a lucrative deal with another -- an incentive for achieving something on the pitch is hardly shocking.

Management receive a bonus, and the FAI have sponsorship deals that shoot up in value, so it's natural that the players who did the business will look for a share of the profit.

Sure, but there's a disparity in earnings in the dressing-room. Ten-thousand euro may only be a day's work to the elite but for an ageing player like Lawrence, who hasn't been paid by his club, or a young player at a Championship club, it could make a difference.

Footballers are often not as rich as their salary suggests. There are many examples of high-earning players who have frittered cash away, so every penny eventually counts.

Some players give their Ireland fees to charity; others may just want to buy their WAG a present. Either way, they will look for what they believe is a fair compromise.

It varies. The bigger nations have larger TV deals and secure huge rewards for their participation.

There was no retrospective hassle in Germany when they strolled to Euro 2012. The six ever-presents in their squad knew they were getting €180,000 a head.

In Denmark, it's even more straightforward. They're still working off a collective agreement from 1998, which says they get 50pc of the tournament revenue, and 65pc of merchandise revenue plus a reward from sponsors for qualifying.

In 2002, Mick McCarthy's charges shared close to 50pc, but the FAI wasn't funding a stadium then -- unlike now where the funds generated by the international team are crucial for the association's stability.

This is the bottom line really. It seems that the FAI and the squad are singing off the same hymn sheet with a view to how they will be rewarded should they make progress in Poland, which makes sense so it's not an ongoing issue while they are there.

Surely, all the fuss could have been avoided if a percentage was agreed before the first qualifier, so the players aren't accused of being opportunistic, and the FAI can prepare in advance for the division of the major tournament jackpot.

Irish Independent

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