FAI boss Delaney declines to take questions on debt
Traditional AGM press conference cancelled as FAI chief executive tells delegates that press reports are creating negative image
John Delaney adreessing the FAI agm at the Arklow Bay Hotel, Arklow, Co. Wicklow. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Having discouraged delegates from asking questions at its AGM in recent years and refused entry to the one who seemed intent on posing a few about its finances this year, the FAI also decided to remain tight-lipped with the media on Saturday in Arklow.
The traditional post-meeting press conference with the chief executive was cancelled at short notice.
John Delaney told delegates that responding to queries from journalists was not in the association’s “best interests”, sought to suggest that some of the reporting in recent weeks regarding its finances was unfair and expressed surprise at the general air of scepticism expressed in just about all of the coverage that the organisation can meet its own target of being debt-free by 2020.
The latter point caused a certain amount of surprise amongst the travelling press corps who, it seems, are supposed to take at face value assurances regarding the finances from an organisation that has sought to make the detail behind the numbers involved more obscure in recent years.
Its chief executive, meanwhile, had informed reporters at one point or another that the ill-fated Vantage Club scheme would enable the FAI to pay its share of the stadium costs up front, that the scheme was nearly sold out and that the bulk of the stadium would be full for every international game after it was completed.
Most of the claims were made with the sort of conviction he conveyed when telling delegates on Saturday that ( despite debts of €63 million and a €6 million or roughly 15 per cent drop in turnover in a year when it received €11 million in exceptional payments or one type or another from Uefa) things were proceeding entirely to plan.
Critics, like Paul Cooke, the Waterford United representative who was refused a delegate’s card for the conference on the basis that his club’s affiliation fees had not been paid, might have argued that there is little basis for accepting the leadership’s assurances on this plan when the original plan fell apart so gloriously.
But, of course, he didn’t get the opportunity.
Both Delaney and finance director Tony Dignam insist the current goal is entirely achievable. But the fact that the €10 million in revenue from Uefa’s new centralised TV deal is talked about as if it was all new money does not do much to bring around the doubters.
While the suggestion that the resale next year of the 10 -years tickets sold back in 2004 for a fraction of what Vantage Club tickets are supposed to cost now can be pulled off successfully just seems completely fanciful in the wake of the IRFU’s admission that less than half of theirs were shifted.