Thursday 19 September 2019

'FAI sponsorship deals are being affected by crisis' - Rea Walshe's message to council as Noel Mooney prepares to take over

Rea Walshe pictured with John Delaney
Rea Walshe pictured with John Delaney
Marketing paused: Interim boss FAI Rea Walshe. Photo: Frank McGrath
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Interim FAI CEO Rea Walshe told delegates at the association's council meeting that commercial partners have been impacted by “negative sentiment” arising from the football body's governance issues.

In her report to attendees on Wednesday, which has been seen by the Irish Independent, Walshe also confirmed that the marketing campaign for Club Ireland - the FAI's new solution for the sale of premium level Aviva Stadium tickets - has been paused since March 17.

That is the weekend that details emerged of ex-CEO John Delaney's €100,000 bridging loan to the Association.

Walshe said that the FAI are "constantly reviewing a good time to restart".

Strong sales of Club Ireland tickets will be essential to boost the FAI's coffers.

Poor sales of the old Vantage Club packages decade ago landed the Association with substantial levels of debt that they are still trying to pay off - a new target of 2025 was laid out earlier this week.

The FAI are relying on financial support from UEFA to help them through a difficult period created by the recent turmoil and a number of investigations looking into their affairs.

Their primary sponsors Three and kit sponsors New Balance are considering their options with their current deals set to expire next year.

Walshe told members that brand and commercial opportunities have been affected by the governance issues, but the FAI hope they will be in a position to create new partnerships come the autumn.

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Issues regarding leadership at the FAI should become clearer over the next week, although there is some opposition to UEFA driven plans to send ex-FAI employee Noel Mooney back from Switzerland to take a central role in the coming months.

It's believed that Sport Ireland and government figures have reservations based around Mooney's relationship with the previous FAI regime. They favour a candidate from outside football.

Mooney is a former FAI employee and was a special guest at the Association's AGM two years ago where he showered praise on Delaney and the Abbotstown hierarchy.

It's understood that the former League of Ireland goalkeeper would challenge the viewpoint that he was a close ally of Delaney.

One senior FAI board figure supports the Sport Ireland viewpoint that the interim solution should be from another sphere, but the majority are understood to be in favour of going with UEFA's preference rather than a government pick.

Discussions were ongoing last night, with details still to be worked out.

The envisaged plan would see Mooney co-ordinating a team with input from UEFA and FIFA staff - some of whom might be involved in specific projects rather than being based in Ireland.

However, there remains a strong chance that he would be provided with full-time assistance , with the stopgap solutions - including Mooney - then returning to their current employer at the end of the process. The FAI's recruitment of a new CEO has been placed on the long finger for now.

Mooney is currently in Budapest at a meeting of UEFA's member associations built around the Women's Champions League final. Walshe and President Donal Conway are also in Hungary representing the FAI.

It has been a challenging week for the FAI with the board coming under pressure at home after the decision to back down on plans to bring in calendar year football for all schoolboy leagues.

This appeased leagues - most notably the Dublin and District Schoolboys League (DDSL) - who were opposed to a move from the winter season.

Schoolboy leagues now have the freedom to make their own decision on when they structure their campaign.

Critics of this change of FAI strategy include senior figures within the League of Ireland who believe that an interim board should not be making decisions of that significance given that they are all supposed to be standing down at July's AGM.

Irish Independent

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