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Monday's FAI vote on financial lifeline will take place by email due to coronavirus restrictions

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Gary Owens, interim CEO of the FAI, (centre) with Minister of Sport Shane Ross (right) and Minister of State Brendan Griffin at the announcement of a financial rescue package for the association last January (Brian Lawless/PA)

Gary Owens, interim CEO of the FAI, (centre) with Minister of Sport Shane Ross (right) and Minister of State Brendan Griffin at the announcement of a financial rescue package for the association last January (Brian Lawless/PA)

Gary Owens, interim CEO of the FAI, (centre) with Minister of Sport Shane Ross (right) and Minister of State Brendan Griffin at the announcement of a financial rescue package for the association last January (Brian Lawless/PA)

Monday's much-anticipated meeting of the Football Association of Ireland council to approve a €50m rescue deal has been replaced by an email ballot due to the coronavirus.

The new regime of the association, led by independent chairman Roy Barrett, had called the summit of the 79 delegates for the Castleknock Hotel with the sole item of approving the lifeline.

However, correspondence issued on Monday morning has confirmed that an 'overwhelming majority' of council members have agreed to cast their votes online because of the restrictions imposed on gathering as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

interim chief executive Gary Owens had urged members to agree to an email vote on Sunday evening. A majority had to be agree by 8.30am this morning for the meeting to be abandoned and for feedback to be received electronically.

The terms of the deal entail extending the maturity date of the primary €28.5m loan from 2021 to 2030. It is expected that the €15.7m balance will then be refinanced.

In addition, an upfront €14m loan is being supplied for cashflow purposes, to be repaid from 2022-2028 at €2.5m per annum directly from the UEFA centralised television deal.

There is the option until December 2021 of increasing this particular stream by €10m, entitled a Revolving Credit Facility (RCF).

The bailout, involving support from the state, UEFA and the Bank of Ireland was agreed on January 30, and has been subject to legal diligence since.

FAI rules decree buy-off must first be obtained from a majority of council members for any loan facility of over €1.27m.

Hosting that gathering proved to large a challenge due to social distancing restrictions and the reluctance to travel by those in the risk categories identified by the Health Service Executive.

Coronavirus concerns were behind last week's decision to switch the meeting from FAI headquarters to a larger hotel room.

Interim chief executive Gary Owens was scheduled to verbalise the deal and address questions. The FAI's financial advisors Grant Thornton and legal consultants A&L Goodbody were due to attend the meeting.

In light of the deepening crisis over the weekend, alternative methods such as live streaming or addressing queries through email before voting have been suggested by some delegates.

"We currently do have a quorum for the planned meeting but given the government advice, the emails received from some council members expressing concern about a face to face meeting and the fact that many of you will have to travel from all over the country we are proposing to hold the vote via email," said Owens in an email to council members.

"There is also the possibility that the Government may make decisions today or tomorrow which may place further restrictions on people travelling or holding group meetings.

"Consequently, the board believes that we should proceed on this particular occasion and in these extraordinary circumstances to approve the resolution via email."

The FAI have an urgent need for sign-off due pressing commitments, such as next week’s monthly pay-run for workforce of 207 employees.

"It is essential that this Council sanction is received tomorrow to keep the Association alive," added Owens.

While debate has been rife since the deal was hatched about the reform demands placed on the FAI in return, those changes will be addressed in a separate forum.

An emergency general meeting will be held on April 30 to discuss those rule changes.

"We will discuss our constitution and the future roadmap for the association," said Owens.

"We will go through the detail of the financial proposal with Bank of Ireland at a Council meeting on that date."

An EGM was convened in Dunboyne last July for the Governance Review Group’s recommendations to be ratified.

The overhaul of the committee structure was led by Sport Ireland following the flaws exposed by the demise of former chief executive John Delaney's exactly a year ago.

Additional and speedier reforms have been demanded by Sports Minister Shane Ross as part of the rescue deal.

Among them are former board members being barred from the newly-formed FAI committees, council members with 10 years of service retiring by the annual general meeting this July and the portion of independent directors on the FAI board rising from four to six.

The independent chairman on the 12-person board, Barrett, holds the casting vote.

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