Answers at a premium at FAI agm

Media queries regarding Aviva Stadium mortage, O’Neill’s wages, or anything else submitted after agm ignored

FAI chief executive John Delaney addresses delegates to the FAI’s agm at the Radisson Blu hotel in Athlone. Photograph:  Donall Farmer/Inpho

FAI chief executive John Delaney addresses delegates to the FAI’s agm at the Radisson Blu hotel in Athlone. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Mon, Jul 28, 2014, 01:00

The FAI have declined to respond to questions asked over the weekend concerning their new mortgage on the Aviva Stadium, the dramatic cut to the price of 10-year premium seats at the stadium, or newspaper reports regarding the part-funding of the senior management team’s wages by Denis O’Brien.

All were submitted by members of the media after Saturday’s agm in Athlone where delegates failed once again to raise a single issue.

Sales pitches

This year’s meeting last just over two hours, much of which was taken up with sales pitches from association employees responsible for the sale of their season tickets and centrally organised club raffle scheme, as well as by the organisation’s longest standing sponsor, Umbro.

As expected, the €11.7 million write down secured in December on the association’s stadium related debt was hailed by chief executive John Delaney and outgoing financial director Tony Dignam as a significant achievement but the question of why its new lenders, US firm Corporate Capital Trust, would grant a near 20 per cent discount to an organisation that always previously told members they could pay the full amount by 2020 was never raised.

The terms of the new deal were not disclosed and nobody seemed to see fit to ask whether an American investment operation had extracted a higher interest or anything else in return for such granting such a substantial concession on a mortgage originally issued by a Danish bank that was a sponsor of the association.

Nor was there any response to queries regarding Delaney’s new €1.8 million, five-year contract and the terms of the new Club Ireland scheme, under which supporters will be offered 10-year premium seats which previously cost €32,000 for €4,933.

Many members of the “football family” came under pressure from the association to buy or sell the original Vantage Club tickets and many clubs, their officials and their friends did but there was no word of whether they would be refunded some or all of the difference between the two amounts for any of the period covered and no evidence during the meeting of concern over the issue.

Unanswered

A question on the matter, one of 12 submitted by the media on Saturday afternoon, went unanswered, at least until yesterday evening.

The scale of the discount, around 85 per cent, might be interpreted as a belated admission of how hopelessly misjudged the original pricing structure, publicly and confidently championed by Delaney, was.

Vantage Club revenues would, it was claimed, effectively pay the FAI’s share of the cost of redeveloping Lansdowne Road but sales fell far short of what was projected, and sometimes claimed, while the fact some were sold for very substantial sums has left the association in a difficult position with regard to the rest.

Delaney claimed again on Saturday the association’s ability to resell existing 10-year tickets in 2020 is one of the reasons for the organisation’s confidence it will be able to pay off its €50.3 million debt by that year, but the idea that the scheme’s original customers, many of whom have since found themselves seated close to people who have bought the same seats for a fraction of the cost, often on a match by match basis, will be anxious to do business with the association again, seems optimistic.

Legal battle

The association’s legal battle with ISG, the firm initially employed to market the tickets, is scheduled to go to court next year.

There was no confirmation, or denial, regarding a report in the Sun newspaper on Saturday that Martin O’Neill was being paid €1 million per annum and Roy Keane €300,000 and that businessman Denis O’Brien was paying €910,000 of that.

A query regarding the future of Paul Doolin, the Irish Under-19 team manager, whose contract is about to expire, also went unanswered.

Paddy McCaul’s four-year term as president of the association ended at the weekend, meanwhile, the 59-year-old being replaced by Cork’s Tony Fitzgerald and Donal Conway taking over as vice president.

And in the course of the presentation on the association’s season tickets, around 8,500 of which are said to have been sold, it was confirmed Ireland will play the USA in Dublin on November 18th.

Drogheda United, meanwhile, have appointed Damien Richardson as manager until the end of the season. Darius Kierans, who had been in temporary charge, will continue as his assistant.

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