Thursday 22 February 2018

UEFA give FAI advanced payment to help with Aviva Stadium debt

Damian Spellman

UEFA have stepped in to help the Football Association of Ireland meet its debt repayments for the Aviva Stadium.

The organisation has confirmed that is has advanced a "solidarity payment", understood to amount to several million Euros from its development fund, to the FAI.

Finance director Josef Koller told the Irish Sunday Times: "It is a really difficult situation, because of the economic crisis, and we said 'Okay, we can advance certain solidarity payments'."

The agreement was reached after a meeting between Koller and Danske Bank, the FAI's main creditor, at which chief executive John Delaney was present.

Koller said: "I just said to John Delaney that if you want me to be there and I can assist by explaining it from UEFA's point of view, I will do it.

"Danske felt very comfortable to have somebody from UEFA there, especially the finance director. It was really worthwhile to explain to Danske how important this is for us."

The FAI declined to comment on the report today.

Meanwhile, Giovanni Trapattoni and his Republic of Ireland players had a taste of home on the other side of the Atlantic today.

The 74-year-old and his squad travelled to Breezy Point in the borough of Queens to provide support to the largely Irish community less than eight months after their homes were decimated by Hurricane Sandy.

Trapattoni and the players were taken on a tour of the area, dubbed "the Irish Riviera" by locals, before conducting an impromptu coaching session with local youngsters on a pitch which on October 29, 2012, was under five feet of water.

The Italian said: "Sometimes, it's important for young players to see these situations and think about what can happen in one day in your life.

"We are famous, we live a different life and we have no time to think about these moments.

"It's important to come and reflect on what happens to other people, and we are very happy to be here for this initiative."

The figures are frightening. The Breezy Point Co-operative comprises 2,837 homes; 111 were burnt out with firefighters unable to use their hoses because of the accompanying floods, 250 were condemned and the remained were inundated by the surging waters which washed away the dunes protecting the community.

Around 8,000 people were driven from their homes as the cost of damage ran into millions of dollars.

But perhaps the key statistic is than no-one died. By contrast, 30 residents were killed in the attack on the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001.

However, Breezy Point is fighting back and somewhere between 1500 and 1800 people have returned to their homes.

Redevelopment work is underway, but with no protection in place and another bad storm season forecast, its future is uncertain.

In addition, homeowners have seen the values of their properties plummet with one, Maura Buckley, estimating hers, which was worth around 540,000 before the hurricane, could now bring as little as 150,000- 175,000.

Despite the trauma they have suffered, the community remains unbowed, and the presence of Trapattoni and the Irish squad provided a further boost.

The elements were significantly kinder today as glorious sunshine bathed the pitch, and it is for that reason that the locals choose to live where they do.

Co-operative director Matt Regan said: "It's great on a day like today. In February, there's wind, snow, the sand will hit you in the face.

"But you plough through because you know you are going to get to June again."

Press Association

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