Sport Soccer

Wednesday 24 January 2018

FAI's deal raises as many questions as answers

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

AS the FAI announced that Inter Milan will be coming to Dublin next July to participate in a new annual four-team tournament, there was also a degree of clarity for the people of Limerick who fumed when they were denied the visit of Barcelona last summer.

John Delaney finally admitted that a deal with production company Endemol, which will be worth €10m to the association over the next decade, was the third-party agreement that prevented the FAI from sanctioning a money-spinning Thomond Park meeting between the Catalan giants and the locals.

You might remember that the Shannonsiders were initially told there was a problem due to a clash with Airtricity League fixtures, until it finally emerged that a restriction on friendlies with an attendance greater than 15,000 was in place.

Oh, and the FAI were trying to bring Barcelona to the Aviva Stadium as well.

This arrangement with Endemol will bring top teams to Dublin 4 every summer. The Airtricity League XI and two other teams -- an unnamed European club and a top Premier League side -- will also be on show in the tournament, which will take place on the weekend of July 30-31, 2011.

It is set to become a regular event in the calendar, with Endemol and their partners Iconic hosting the event.

The FAI simply receive a lump sum for granting the rights, providing the stadium and putting together a local team to take part.

Still, a number of questions arise from the agreement with respect to the Limerick debacle and other issues going forward.

What does this deal mean for League of Ireland clubs seeking to arrange friendlies?

Now, they know for certain that they cannot look to arrange exhibition matches in a venue with a capacity greater than 15,000 as the FAI's contract with Endemol says that the company who brought us 'Big Brother' owns the rights for such money-spinners.

The FAI justified the Limerick decision on the basis that it was in the participation agreement that all powers were ceded to the association.

However, the Shannonsiders felt that it was never quite communicated properly.

Why did a contract related to a competition which will take place in 2011 stop a friendly match in 2010 going ahead?

A strange one, this. Delaney said that it was a case of the FAI proving to Endemol that they were serious in their commitment towards their long-term deal.

"The principle had to be established that we would restrict the stadium and attendance size and we did that last summer. We had to show our intent on ensuring that our principles were respected. And we did that and we signed our contract," he said.

Any possible consolation for Limerick?

Inter Milan's visit to Ireland will also include some pre-season training and another match at a venue yet to be confirmed. Turner's Cross and Thomond Park were mentioned as possible locations by Delaney and the FAI also appear to have a say in the opposition.

Bringing Inter to Thomond would certainly satisfy those businessmen in the locality of Shannonside who felt the opportunity to make some money was taken away. But would Limerick FC be invited to play?

And would other clubs be angry if a particular team was given preference?

Have the FAI contradicted themselves on scheduling?

The tournament will take place on a Saturday and Sunday and Delaney indicated that, given that an Airtricity XI will be in action, then Fran Gavin and the league office may have to look at rescheduling that weekend's fixtures.

Now, considering that Gavin sent an email to Limerick this year pointing out that a fixture clash was an obstacle to a friendly, then it would be odd if an entire round of games was moved for a non-competitive tournament.

Fixture congestion was a big issue in 2010 and that time of the year is hectic, with European games coming into play.

Midweek matches generally draw smaller crowds and hit clubs in the pocket, so expect a couple of angry managers sometime next year. Although they'll get fined if they mention it.

Surely this is good for the Airtricity League players, though?

Certainly, they will be excited by the news. There are some talented players in the domestic game who will view the chance to mix with some European stars at the renovated Lansdowne as potentially a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Anything else in the Endemol deal?

A bit of a vague area. Iconic are the company responsible for 'Football's Next Star', and along with Endemol they will be helping sponsor the FAI's Emerging Talent Programme.

Endemol Sport admit they have a department that looks at moving players to top clubs, but it's unclear if this arrangement will give them access to sign up Irish youngsters involved in the progressive FAI scheme.

Irish Independent

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