Delaney says FAI overpriced their 2008 premium ticket scheme
New ‘significantly different’ pricing scheme to be announced at Association’s AGM
John Delaney: “A final review paper on the debt, demonstrating how we can be clear by 2020, will be presented to the board.” Photograph: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
John Delaney has finally admitted that the Football Association of Ireland overpriced their failed premium ticket scheme but he remains confident their mortgage on Lansdowne Road will be cleared by 2020.
Next month marks the 10th anniversary of the chief executive and their former sales agents, International Stadia Group (ISG), bullishly predicting a near full uptake of their 10,000 tickets to not alone meet their €74 million contribution towards the Lansdowne Road redevelopment costs but generate a sizeable profit.
Prices for the 10-year tickets started at €12,000 for those located behind the goal, spiking to €32,000 if customers wanted the optimal view across the halfway line.
The forecasts, as predicted by many, proved aspirational and after ISG had vacated the role in 2010, leaving the FAI alone with the sales function, the parties sued one another and the debts mounted.
By 2014, as the FAI rebranded the Vantage Club as Club Ireland, together with an 85 per cent reduction on prices, the FAI’s loans soared to €70 million.
They still have current liabilities approaching €40 million – including a €4 million loan to Uefa – but Delaney is convinced that the €29 million of stadium debt owing to Bank of Ireland will be discharged by the end of 2020.
“I think the pricing was certainly too high on the bigger 10-year tickets,” acknowledged Delaney, the first time he has indicated any regret about their grandiose sales strategy.
“At our annual general meeting tomorrow, we will announce the new prices which will be significantly different to the first scheme. There was a very traditional model in Irish sport in selling just 10-year tickets but there is also a market for lesser years.”
Having indicated in May 2017 that a final decision on their debt-free pledge would be made by the first of this year, the matter is on the agenda at a scheduled meeting of the FAI board today. It is expected an update, likely to reaffirm the promise of clearing the mortgage, will be delivered to members attending tomorrow’s agm in Cork.
“A final review paper on the debt, demonstrating how we can be clear by 2020, will be presented to the board and, having considered it, they will say yes,” revealed Delaney.
“If the paper says we can and will clear the debt by then, I’ll support it. That will then go to the members at the AGM on Saturday.”
It remains to be seen whether the topic of betting sponsorship arises during the annual summit. The FAI’s two-year deal with Ladbrokes wasn’t renewed upon expiration on July 31st with the betting company stating the relationship ‘came to a natural end’.
Links between sporting organisations and betting companies has become a topical issue amid stories of addiction afflicting participants at all levels.
The English Football Association took a stance just over a year ago by voting to prematurely terminate their deal with Ladbrokes while, in February of this year, the GAA passed a motion outlawing betting sponsorship in all competitions.
Only a fortnight ago, President Michael D Higgins addressed the issue by calling on the Government to legislate for expanding the GAA’s new policy across all sports.
It is not known whether the FAI intend replacing Ladbrokes with a new betting partner but Delaney suggested losing sponsors of any ilk impairs their ability to invest money back into the game.
Boylesports and Bragbet both previously held the role as the FAI’s betting partner and the association has a separate link to Trackchamp allowing the company broadcast all League of Ireland games to punters abroad who have opened a gambling account.
“We will look at that in autumn,” he said. “There are a couple of categories of sponsorship which are sometimes controversial. Ultimately for the Association – and this applies to a lot of sporting bodies – when you get that revenue, the key for me is where that money goes.
“The Trackchamp deal has two years remaining and those funds are passed straight onto the League of Ireland clubs. Bear in mind that dropping a sponsor means dropping revenue so, if we’re to debate this issue, it should be in an informed way.”