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FAI president Donal Conway during a press conference on Saturday.
FAI president Donal Conway during a press conference on Saturday.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

FAI 'a couple of weeks away' from securing funding package from Uefa

Donal Conway spoke to media before Saturday’s FAI EGM in Meath.
Jul 21st 2019, 10:46 PM 6,933 16

FAI PRESIDENT DONAL Conway has refused to rule out the possibility of redundancies in the association as he confirmed they are “a couple of weeks away” from finalising a funding package with Uefa that could potentially stretch to almost €30 million.

Speaking after all 78 recommendations made by the Sport Ireland/FAI Governance Review Group were resoundingly passed — 116-2 in favour — at Saturday’s Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM), Conway also derided the long-trumpeted assertion by former chief executive John Delaney that the association would pay off it’s Aviva Stadium debt by 2020, insisting it was now “stupid” in the current climate.

When pressed on how much financial assistance was required by Uefa, which Conway stressed was “the absolute key relationship for the FAI”, the incumbent president hinted that advanced payments of monies due will also be required.

“We’re in the business of designing a financial model that benefits what the association is trying to deliver, for example I would have said before, one aspect of it, we pay the debt on the Aviva Stadium by 2020 would be a stupid part, it’s not a part going forward.

“That would be one key change for example. As I say, we’re working closely with Uefa on a new financial model and we’re probably a couple of weeks away from finalising that.

“What I would say to you is that we can get €10 to €12 million from Uefa in any one year, that tends to be what we get,” Conway said, before the specific figure of an additional €15 million, of unscheduled funding was broached.

I think the idea of a new financial plan or financial model is to try to work on a current year basis. We have deals with Uefa from 2018 to 2022, a TV deal that is a particularly big pot of money, there’s a 2022 to 28 deal etc, there is hat-trick funding, hat-trick four, five, six.

“Ideally we call them down when they are due to be called down but what we have done in the past and what we have to do for some time is take advance payments.
“We haven’t actually signed…we have a draft an agreement,” Conway confirmed.

“That’s an accurate way to describe our arrangement with Uefa. They don’t particularly want this member association talking about that draft agreement. And it’s not finalised or signed off on yet. It is still a work in progress, I think that that’s the most prudent way for me to discuss it.”

Such prudence now seems likely to see job losses within the FAI, with Conway adding: “The financial analysis, the financial planning and the implications of that are all ahead of us. It’s not something that is absolutely signed off on yet.

We have to build a sustainable financial model going forward and that’s the exercise that we are engaged in. We have met the staff. We would have sent invitations to a staff forum, there have been staff meetings already on a number of occasions.

“We have had very decently attended staff forums and we talk about what we’re doing, we talk about the reform and the questions they ask. Staff have put their shoulders to the wheel and have worked very, very hard in the last number of months.

UEFA meeting before decision on European Championship host 2024 Uefa general secretary Theodore Theodoridis. Source: DPA/PA Images

“The mood? I am in there a lot and this was a big deal for them, [the EGM] is a big deal for them and getting this across the line. Aidan [Horan, chair of the Governance Review Group] would have met the staff as well and dealt with staff, so I think they see it in stages and I’m sure they will be absolutely reassured by the adoption of this governance report.”

Conway also made it clear that, while he understands why Sports Minister Shane Ross and the Sport Ireland hierarchy would like for him to step aside from the FAI board immediately, it is the relationship with Fifa and Uefa which is top priority.

Two of the game’s governing bodies signed a letter delivered to the FAI last Friday, citing their concerns about those external influences which were putting pressure on Conway to resign.

“The letter from Fifa and Uefa is signed by the General Secretary of both Fifa, Fatma Samoura, and the General Secretary of Uefa, Theodore Theodoridis. Just look at those two signatures – these are two of the most senior people in both organisations. The fact that it is signed by those two people suggests that we have to take it seriously. If I stood down, I’m sure I’d get a question: ‘Mr President, are you doing that because you think it’s in the best interests of the association or are you doing that because a third party has said, ‘step down or else’? I think that would be a conversation if I stepped down.

“Sport Ireland provide five per cent of our revenue. I have always said it’s important, it’s really, really important. But in any one year we might get €10m to €12m from Uefa. When you look at that, adding Fifa money from various programmes – they may kick in in a particular year or not – they are our two key stakeholders.

“They matter more, Uefa in particular is the absolute key relationship for the FAI.”

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