Sunday 8 December 2019

UEFA experts urge FAI to sell stake in Aviva Stadium to ease financial problems


A general view of the Aviva Stadium. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
A general view of the Aviva Stadium. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The FAI have been asked to consider selling their share of the Aviva Stadium in order to ease their cash-flow crisis.

It's understood that UEFA experts, who were engaged in a review of the troubled association's finances, have discussed the radical option.

Please log in or register with Independent.ie for free access to this article.

Log In

They feel the FAI should do a deal with the IRFU that would give rugby authorities full ownership of the venue and provide the football body with a cash injection which would help stabilise their position.

The European experts believe the Irish association are lacking certainty about their future as debt pressures - exacerbated by a year of crisis - have made the advance drawdown of monies owed an absolute necessity.

It's understood that UEFA have advanced around €15m to the FAI in order to help them through an extremely difficult period with €10m coming from future TV deals - under the UEFA umbrella - and €5m from the HatTrick assistance programme.

The beleaguered FAI received another setback yesterday when John Foley turned down the chance to take over as interim CEO.

FAI chiefs were keen to have Foley in place ahead of an AGM later this month, when the extent of their financial woes will be laid out, and must now source a replacement. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / Sportsfile
FAI chiefs were keen to have Foley in place ahead of an AGM later this month, when the extent of their financial woes will be laid out, and must now source a replacement. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / Sportsfile

It's understood that the FAI will reveal the details of their accounts on Thursday with a view to proceeding with the reconvened AGM on December 28. FAI chiefs were keen to have Foley in place for the AGM but must now source a replacement.

The external belief is that the FAI will find it hard to escape from the cycle of early drawdown of monies owed without a dramatic change in circumstances, or massive cutbacks.

Analysts in European football's governing body, who have studied the FAI books, think that looking at stadium ownership is an obvious angle.

FAI officials are aware of the suggestion, but it's thought to be highly unlikely that the idea would gain traction internally given the time and money invested into the stadium and the optics of having to rent the facility for games, among other issues that would arise.

Naming rights for the Aviva Stadium are also lucrative for the FAI and would have to be factored into the equation.

The renovated Lansdowne Road is controlled by the FAI and the IRFU through a 50:50 joint venture and is run by a stadium company. Both associations pay fees into that company for hosting matches and share dividends that are paid out.

Filed accounts showed that the combined fees paid by the FAI and IRFU were €6.4m in 2017 and €5.8m in 2018.

When the 60-year lease expires, the venue will return to the exclusive ownership of the IRFU, although FAI voices have always explained that arrangement by indicating that a new stadium – or another upgrade of the Aviva –would likely come to pass before that point is reached.

The FAI are laden with debt, primarily due to their failure to sell premium tickets for the stadium.

Under former CEO John Delaney, they had ambitious plans to be debt-free by 2020.

Abandoned

That plan has now been abandoned and the FAI hierarchy have conceded that it could be another decade before they achieve that target.

A year of reviews and reports has resulted in mounting legal bills and associated costs that have placed further strain on its coffers.

The Aviva Stadium works cost €411m with €191m coming from the taxpayer and the rest provided by the two sporting bodies.

Last year, Delaney refused to confirm how much it cost the FAI to construct the stadium when borrowings were taken into consideration.

“We’ll do it in 2020,” he said. “It will look at not only the cost, but also the revenue-generating that the stadium has brought.”

The cost of Delaney’s exit will be on the agenda at the reconvened AGM which is provisionally scheduled for December 28.

Delegates are set to be informed that the main element of the severance package paid to Delaney was a pension-related payment of around €370,000.

In the statement announcing Delaney’s departure, the FAI said they would “fulfil certain notice and pension obligations as agreed between the parties”.

Delaney also received three months’ wages (€90,000) and sources have indicated there was a third element to the deal – a smaller payment understood to be related to legal costs.

It brought the overall package close to the €500,000 mark but FAI figures would argue that the notice figure was set in stone and not open to negotiations.

Who is your sportstar of the year?

Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.

Prizes include, tickets to Ireland's against Scotland in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.

Simply click here to register your vote

Indo Sport

The Left Wing: The problem with the Champions Cup, the Stephen Larkham effect and trouble in Welsh rugby

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport