Wednesday 18 September 2019

FAI may need €20m in Uefa funding in the space of a year to steady ship

Faced questions: FAI president Donal Conway, left, and newly elected FAI vice president Paul Cooke speaking after the FAI AGM at Knightsbrook Hotel in Trim, Co Meath. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Faced questions: FAI president Donal Conway, left, and newly elected FAI vice president Paul Cooke speaking after the FAI AGM at Knightsbrook Hotel in Trim, Co Meath. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

FAI president Donal Conway has admitted that the association may need to draw down €20m in funding from Uefa in the space of a calendar year to ease financial pressures.

Mr Conway said that a definite plan for the structure of support from Uefa is likely to be worked out at a crunch meeting next month.

European football's governing body will provide monies owed to the FAI in advance in order to get it through a rocky period.

Mr Conway was asked for specific figures at a press conference following the AGM where he was re-elected.

He stressed that further talks were needed and denied that Uefa would be calling the shots in Abbotstown.

But he did acknowledge that there is a possibility that a significant amount will be drawn down in a 12-month window.

"We have indicative numbers but nobody has signed off on a number yet," said Mr Conway.

"We can explain to you that in 2020 we are due €6m in TV money for example and in the next year we are due €6m in TV money.

"We are due €5m in Hat Trick (Uefa funding) and the sums will be as required.

"We would like to be able to use money at the point that it is due - this is what Paul Cooke (new vice president) and I and two other people are working at. But for another couple of years we will have to draw advance payments.

"That is where the figure you are talking about (is coming from) - a global figure.

"So instead of it being €12m it might be €18m or €20m in a particular year because we will need certain advance payments.

"Some will come to us anyway because they are just falling due at the point that they are due. The absolute final figure, nobody has put a number on it yet."

FAI staff have expressed fears that jobs could be at risk and officials from Abbotstown were unable to rule that scenario out when it was raised across the course of the Festival of Football in Meath that preceded the AGM.

Mr Cooke is a chartered accountant who has been part of an FAI board sub-committee in recent months.

"There may have to be some hard decisions, but it's across everything," said Mr Cooke.

"But there could be increased commercial revenue as well."

Mr Conway and Mr Cooke said qualification for Euro 2020 would help the FAI's position, but they are making budgetary plans for the worst-case scenario were Mick McCarthy's men to miss out.

The AGM was adjourned on Saturday and will resume in autumn when accounts for 2018 are available.

It means no fresh update on the situation as regards Aviva Stadium debt - with Mr Cooke reluctant to put a timescale on when that might be cleared. Ex-CEO John Delaney had plans to clear the debt by 2020.

"It's just a mortgage now," said Mr Cooke, adding the FAI hopes to make capital and interest repayments "in a way that facilitates us doing other things".

"There is no date but it will run out. It won't be five years, let's put it that way."

Mr Conway is hopeful that State funding will be restored before the end of the year, but Sports Minister Shane Ross's opposition to his re-election is a sticking point and talks between Mr Ross and Fifa and Uefa representatives failed to reach agreement on that subject.

Irish Independent

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