IRFU has no interest in acquiring FAI’s stake in Aviva Stadium

Rugby body met Department of Sport officials about football organisation’s finances

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has said it has no interest in acquiring the share of the Aviva Stadium owned by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI). File photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has said it has no interest in acquiring the share of the Aviva Stadium owned by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI). File photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times.

 

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has said it has no interest in acquiring the share of the Aviva stadium owned by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI).

Irish rugby’s governing body confirmed that it does not want to buy the 42.5 per cent stake in the ground held by the FAI after meeting officials from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport on Thursday.

The IRFU had requested the meeting to discuss the ongoing operation of the 52,000 seat stadium, which is owned by a company jointly controlled by it and the FAI.

“To address recent speculation, the IRFU confirms that it does not have an interest in acquiring the FAI’s share in the Aviva Stadium,” the union said in a statement.

“The IRFU’s investment programme is centered firmly on the development of rugby at all levels and all available funds are fully committed to that programme.”

The FAI and the IRFU pay a licence fee of roughly €200,000 a month each to help cover the running costs of the stadium, which are partially paid by revenue from concerts and other events.

The FAI, however, has fallen behind in its payments by the equivalent of six months, some €1.2 million.

Travails

The IRFU requested the meeting with the department in light of the recent financial travails of its joint venture partner, which revealed it had liabilities of €55 million at the end of last year in accounts earlier this month.

TDs were told on Wednesday that the figure has since risen to €62 million due to the forward payment of TV rights and other monies from Uefa, European football’s governing body, in order to keep the FAI afloat.

Brendan Menton, the former chief executive of the FAI, has suggested that liabilities could be as high as €85.8 million.

In a brief statement released after the meeting, the IRFU said it was agreed at the meeting that it would continue to liaise with the department in relation to the on-going operations of the stadium company.

However, the IRFU is thought to be concerned about its responsibilities as a shareholder, and any potential liabilities it may have after the FAI made public the full extent of its financial difficulties.

While the subject of selling the FAI stake was repeatedly raised at Wednesday’s meeting of the Oireachtas sport committee, it is believed there would not be any real market for its share given the limited scope of its operations and the fact that it does not generate significant profits.

The stadium cost €460 million to build with a government contribution of €191 million. The Government has a first charge over the stadium, meaning it cannot be sold without the permission of the Minister for Sport.