Tuesday 18 December 2018

Delaney to confirm FAI debt plans before AGM

FAI chief John Delaney. Photo: Sportsfile
FAI chief John Delaney. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The "significant" return from the extension of naming rights for the Aviva Stadium will help inform the FAI's decision on plans to clear debt by 2020, according to CEO John Delaney.

Delaney says that the Association will offer more clarity on their financial strategy before their AGM this summer.

They had always factored in the naming rights that were up for renewal as part of any plan to reduce bank borrowings.

The last set of FAI accounts showed that their liabilities were €39m with €34m related to debt arising from the cost of building the Aviva Stadium - and the failure of the 10-year, premium-level ticket scheme.

When the stadium was under construction, Aviva bought 10-year naming rights for a deal that was worth €44m to New Stadium Limited, the partnership between the FAI and IRFU.

It subsequently emerged that the associations had sold on the sponsorship deal to a third-party investment fund in return for an up-front payment in the region of €35m. This gave the respective parties a short-term cash-flow boost.

With Martin O'Neill's future the main talking point, Delaney did not discuss how the FAI and IRFU would treat with Aviva monies this time around, with the insurance company agreeing a five-year deal on this occasion - from 2020 to 2025 - with the option of another five.

Delaney would not confirm the value of the new arrangement, but he re-affirmed the view that the FAI board's decisions in the first six months of 2018 will determine whether they press ahead with plans to clear debts by 2020 or extend their repayment period on stadium loans.

"We will outline in the first six months of this year our overall financial strategy for the next number of years but this deal was very much in line with what we wanted to do, in terms of putting our plans together," said Delaney.

"It's a significant deal for all three parties, the FAI, IRFU and the stadium - the commercial arrangements are confidential but it's a significant deal for all three. Prior to the AGM, we will outline our overall financial strategy."

In that context, missing out on the World Cup was a major setback for the FAI, although Abbotstown officials have always argued that they never budget for major tournament qualification.


However, making it to the finals would have boosted the coffers considerably and eased the debt burden.

It would also have created a feel-good factor around O'Neill's side that would have led to the scheduling of home friendlies at the renovated Lansdowne Road in the run-up to the tournament.

Instead, Ireland's schedule this side of the summer consists of away games with Turkey and France.

It's expected that one home game will be added to the fixture list, but the absence of Dublin dates is reflective of the challenge that selling those matches would present.

Delaney says that FAI minds simply have to turn towards the next campaign rather than dwelling on what might have been.

"Qualifying is what you would want to do," he said.

"If you qualify for a major tournament, it gets the country behind the team, it makes the supporters really happy to be following the team. It helps grass-root football.

"There's no doubt it does all of those things but, when you don't, then you regroup and focus on the next one."

The FAI board will meet this morning ahead of an EGM that has been arranged to run through a series of routine rule changes.

Domestically, a brewing decision for the hierarchy revolves around the governance of the League of Ireland from 2019 onwards with a new partnership between the FAI and clubs one of the options being considered.

One concern over the winter has been the well-being of Limerick FC with the owner of the Premier Division club, Pat O'Sullivan, stating that he can no longer sustain his level of investment.

That did set alarm bells ringing in high places, but Limerick announced a pair of new signings yesterday, including a two-year deal for Connor Ellis who has arrived from Cork City for a small transfer fee. Ex-Bohemians midfielder Eoin Wearen has also signed up for new boss Tommy Barrett.

Irish Independent

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