FAI to present proposals for rescue package to Uefa and government 'within a week'

Shane Ross also described the return of former board member John Earley to a new FAI sub-committee as “unusual.”

FAI Executive Lead Paul Cooke (grey suit) is flanked by a Uefa delegation at Leinster House last week.
FAI Executive Lead Paul Cooke (grey suit) is flanked by a Uefa delegation at Leinster House last week.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

FAI CHAIRPERSON ROY Barrett is set to return to Uefa, the government and Bank of Ireland with proposals for a financial package to rescue the FAI “within a week”, according to Minister for Sport Shane Ross. 

With the FAI saddled with debts of around €62 million and in need of an injection of around €18 million to remain solvent, Mr. Barrett last week met with Uefa, Minister Ross and Bank of Ireland in order to secure a financing package to keep the Association afloat. 

A Uefa delegation also met with Minister Ross and Bank of Ireland’s – the FAI’s main creditor – last week to discuss the financial crisis at the Association. 

Following a series of meetings with the three parties, Mr. Barrett is due to return to them with proposals which Minister Ross forecasts will ask “everybody to share some of the pain.” 

“[The meetings] haven’t come to an end”, Minister Ross told The42 at a sports funding announcement at Abbottstown today, “but Roy Barrett has attended all of them, and as far and as I know he has attended bilaterals with others as well.

“He’s going to come back to us with proposals in the next week which will be as a result of what he’s heard, he’ll have various proposals that he hopes will save Irish football.

“I’d imagine he’ll get a composite from the knowledge he got, he’s going to come back and I guess he’s going to ask everybody to share some of the pain. But that’s only an estimate. Those proposals should come, I should think, within a week.” 

With the 8 February general election looming, the minister did not put a deadline on striking an agreement with the FAI, but said he wanted it to happen “as soon as possible because the financial position is critical.” 

While he acknowledged that the appointment of three independent directors is a sign that the FAI are on the road to the reform he wishes to see, he said that the FAI are “not moving fast enough”, stressing the importance of appointment of a new Chief Executive. 

Vice-President Paul Cooke is performing that role on an interim basis at the moment, with the recruitment of a full-time CEO put on hold until the independent directors were appointed. 

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Minister Ross has not scheduled another meeting with Uefa, but he said the European governing body are open to returning to Dublin for another summit. 

roy-barrett-speaks-to-the-media-after-the-meeting FAI Chair Roy Barrett. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

He demurred when asked if Uefa said they were willing to contribute to “sharing some of the pain”, saying instead that both parties agreed to look at the principle of committing a contribution to saving the FAI. 

“What we really agreed was we would look at the principle of us all contributing towards this, the great benefit of all the meetings was there was an incredible change in the mood music, and the mood music was changed between ourselves and the FAI when the independent directors were installed.

And that was reflected in our subsequent meetings between ourselves and the bankers and Uefa, because once the independent directors were there [on the FAI Board] – and they are there thank God – we recognised that there was a new situation and we wanted to be part of that solution rather than being at loggerheads with the old FAI.”

The Uefa delegation last week included General-Secretary Theodore Theodoridis, who last July co-wrote a public letter reminding Minister Ross of the rules preventing government interference in a football association and its sanction of a potential suspension from international competition, citing Ross’ call for Donal Conway to withdraw from re-election to the FAI Board. 

Minister Ross said that Uefa did not mention government interference at all during last week’s meeting, and that at no point in the meeting did Uefa suggest that Dublin’s hosting of four games at Euro 2020 is under threat. 

Elsewhere, the minister was unwilling to be drawn on the return of former FAI Board member John Earley to Abbottstown, who last week assumed a role on the FAI’s new High Performance sub-committee. 

Mr. Earley was elected to the FAI Board in 2015, resigned ahead of last July’s AGM only to be re-elected at that meeting, and resigned a second time last month, saying he did so in the “best interests of football”, when calls for a full clear-out of Board members from John Delaney’s tenure as CEO intensified following the publication of the FAI’s 2018 accounts. 

“Well he did resign from the Board and I welcomed the fact that he did resign from the Board. I’m not going to comment on that particular unusual event”, said Minister Ross, who declined to expand on what he meant by “unusual.” 

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