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Shane Ross: Solution to save the FAI may be agreed 'fairly soon'

The Minister met with Uefa and FAI Chair Roy Barrett today, as talks to find a deal to safeguard the financial future of the crisis-hit football body intensify.

Shane Ross speaks to the media after today's meeting with Uefa.
Shane Ross speaks to the media after today's meeting with Uefa.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

SPORTS MINISTER SHANE Ross believes that a financial deal to save the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) may happen “fairly soon”, following a meeting with European football governing body Uefa and the FAI at Leinster House this afternoon. 

The crisis-hit football body last month requested the government act as guarantors on short-term debts of €18 million, and while Ross dismissed that out of hand at the time, the subsequent arrival of three independent directors to the FAI Board – Chair Roy Barrett among them – has warmed relations between both parties, although the government have insisted they will not hand the FAI a blank cheque to solve their problems. 

Minister Ross was tight-lipped on the details of any potential deal, but told reporters after the meeting that “there is going to be an intensive round of talks over the next few days.”

He anticipates another meeting with Uefa “within days”, and if that progresses well, all four parties – the government, FAI, Uefa and Bank of Ireland – will be brought around the same table for final-stage discussions. 

Uefa met with Bank of Ireland – the FAI’s bank and main creditor – immediately after the Leinster House meeting, while the government will meet Bank of Ireland tomorrow. 

“Uefa showed an enormous amount of goodwill”, said Minister Ross. “They recognised their role as a stakeholder and their commitment there and the future of Irish football.

“I’m not going into details of exactly what they said as it’s very delicate at the moment but you can take it that everybody sees they will have skin in the game here and everybody is united in ensuring there will be a solution that is shared.

“I don’t think [a solution] is a long way away. I think we’re talking about a very intensive time of negotiations and talks between the four parties in the next few days. I don’t think we’re talking about months or weeks, I think we’re talking about something happening fairly soon and getting a good result in the near future.”

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Today’s meeting lasted approximately an hour, and featured Ministers Ross and Brendan Griffin, FAI Chair Roy Barrett and a four-person Uefa delegation that included General Secretary Theodore Theodoridis and Financial Director Josef Koller.

Mr. Barrett was the only FAI representative in the room in spite of Executive Lead Paul Cooke’s accompanying the party through the gates at Leinster House.

It is understood that Barrett was the sole FAI board member present at the Department’s request. 

Minister Ross added that the Department is determined to ensure examinership or liquidation of the FAI is off the table, although he admitted he couldn’t guarantee such a scenario until a solution is agreed. 

“Well, you’re not going to guarantee absolutely anything at this stage but if you have the four main parties, the stakeholders here, I’m determined that shouldn’t happen and I’m fairly confident the goodwill is there to ensure it doesn’t.” 

FAI Chair Roy Barrett described the meeting as “constructive”, and confirmed there will be further meetings between the parties. 

Theodore Theodoridis also called the meeting “positive”, and did not comment when asked if there is a risk posed to Dublin’s hosting of four Euro 2020 games. 

The position of John Delaney – who remains a member of Uefa’s Executive Committee although has not been invited to attend meetings since the FAI crisis kicked off last March – was not discussed at today’s meeting.

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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