Sport Soccer

Tuesday 24 April 2018

TV rights key to debt-free FAI ambitions

The 2010 accounts show borrowings of €63m and a further overdraft of €4m. However, chief executive John Delaney says they now just owe €50m to the banks, suggesting that they have made repayments in the past seven months.

The FAI have borrowed from the Danish Bank Danske to fund their contribution to the Aviva Stadium. National Irish Bank is a subsidiary of Danske.

How do they plan to be debt-free by 2020?

Delaney cited a number of factors. The main element is increased funding from UEFA's centralisation of TV rights from 2014 onwards. That will be worth €40m over four years, although it is difficult to estimate how much the FAI would have earned under the old variable arrangement, which depended on an attractive draw. The guaranteed income provides a degree of certainty.

are there Any other

sources of funding?

The FAI have secured a €3m grant from UEFA's Hat-Trick scheme and believe they could qualify for one or two more between now and 2020. Delaney enjoys a strong relationship with Michel Platini.

The UEFA website says that, under the Hat-Trick scheme, member associations must divert part of the grant to particular initiatives. However, Delaney says that a contribution to infrastructure is allowed, which means they can divert funding to the Aviva project.

The FAI also point to the resale or renewal of the stadium naming rights, and the fact they can resell 10-year tickets before the 2020 deadline. "Hopefully we'll be out of recession by then," said Delaney.

Is qualification for Euro 2012 necessary?

The FAI say it would be a bonus, and that it isn't accounted for in their projections. They reckon it could be worth a gross €8m.

It would ease the short-term burden between now and 2014, when the UEFA TV money kicks in and they can look to resell 10-year tickets to those who bought them in the old Lansdowne in 2004 -- although a large number of those holders hail from financial institutions.

Are further cost-cutting measures on the way?

There was no mention of job losses at last year's AGM, yet before the year was out 12 employees were on their way, including technical director Packie Bonner.

On Saturday, the various speakers with financial clout stressed that the association would have to be prudent in the next two years. There is a fear in FAI circles that failing to make Poland and Ukraine could lead to stringent cutbacks.

Will the finances affect Giovanni Trapattoni?

The FAI wouldn't have Trapattoni without Denis O'Brien, and it remains to be seen where that arrangement stands going forward.

Nevertheless, his €1.8m wedge is a big commitment and it would be hard to justify retaining him at that level without the boost from qualification to the Euros.

Realistically, all parties seem to be aware that Trapattoni's fate depends on the autumn results.

Are bigger attendances at the Aviva required?

Focus has shifted from the disastrous Vantage Club project -- only a couple of thousand of the 10,000 seats were sold -- to the general admission section. A packaged season-ticket for seven international games, including the Euro 2012 run-in, is selling well, with 6,000 gone already.

Figures in the accounts show a loss in 2010 on the new stadium, but Delaney brushed off any worries, attributing the amount relating to the stadium, €3.5m, to non-cash adjustments like depreciation and amortisation of government grants.

AnythinG else to look for in the next six months?

The World Cup qualifying draw on July 30 is significant. A lucrative draw there would be a welcome shot in the arm. Delaney, Paddy McCaul and honorary secretary Michael Cody will travel. It is unclear if Trapattoni will go.

While there, they could engage in discussion with their English counterparts. Delaney is certain our neighbours will visit the Aviva Stadium at some stage. The CEO is now unsure if a much-anticipated visit to Dublin will take place in the next year. It would help.

Irish Independent

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