Monday 19 March 2018

FAI will be 'out of debt in 10 years' AGM delegates told


DESPITE being given the news that their association is in hock to the banks to the tune of €38m, delegates at the FAI AGM in White's Hotel, Wexford, yesterday, contented themselves with congratulating CEO John Delaney and outgoing president David Blood on their good work.

No hard questions were asked, the delegates sitting passively as the grim financial picture was painted.

Delaney confirmed afterwards to the media that 6,300 Vantage Club seats had been sold in the Aviva Stadium, leaving the FAI with 3,700 spare tickets on their hands, which, he said, they would be "offering to existing holders".

The original plan was that the Vantage Club would obviate the need for any bank loans. At prices ranging from €12,000 to €32,000, it was hoped to raise €190m [gross], but instead of that happy state the FAI is now €38m in debt.

Delaney and his Director of Finance, Mark O'Leary, assured delegates that the debt was manageable and well within budget -- and that the stadium would be debt-free by 2020.

He later told journalists: "We're comfortable with the bankers, we'll be out of debt in 10 years time."

When it was pointed out that a good year -- 2009 -- had only realised profits of €3.6m, Delaney asserted: "We will have stronger revenue streams from 2010 based on the stadium, so we could be out of debt earlier."

O'Leary, in his presentation to delegates, pointed to the debts which other well-known stadia -- such as Croke Park, Millennium, Murrayfield and Wembley -- had incurred and said: "We are no different. The real monetary benefits will be in 10 years time when we are able to re-sell the 10-year tickets."

He also pointed out that the budget drawn up for the next 10 years doesn't include qualification for a finals tournament or even drawing any of the big teams. It was the higher TV revenue from the high-profile games against Italy and France which contributed largely to the 2009 profit.

Last year was also unusual in that the FAI played seven home games [five of them competitive], compared to four in 2008, only one of which was competitive, resulting in a loss of €16m.

The FAI are budgeting to break even this year, and are planning to return an operating profit from 2011 on, but the figures clearly show that its health is governed by the success of the senior international team, despite a reported 21.6 per cent increase in sponsorship.

In that regard, Delaney acknowledged the FAI's debt to their benefactor Denis O'Brien. "Without his original gesture we couldn't have afforded Giovanni Trapattoni and Marco Tardelli," he said, "and when we spoke to him about renewing their contracts he was 100 per cent supportive."

Other savings were made by reducing administration costs by €1.8m, even though employee numbers were up to 197 from 180. They have since been reduced to 179. The Association also acknowledged a contribution of €1.5m from local authorities in co-funding arrangements, while €2.6m was spent funding underage squads.

The AGM, which was the climax to a week-long Festival of Football in CoWexford, moves on to Co Clare next year, on July 2, with a new president, Paddy McCaul from Athlone Town.

Honorary Life Membership was conferred on Jim Murphy -- the Cork City Foras Co-Op delegate -- for his many years of sterling work in the game.

Sunday Independent

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