Denis O’Brien ends contributions to Ireland management’s salaries
John Delaney says FAI ‘are strong enough to stand on our own two feet’
Denis O’Brien has ended his 10-year arrangement with the FAI whereby he contributed to the salaries of the Ireland senior management team. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times
Denis O’Brien has stopped part funding the cost of the FAI’s senior international management team, according to the association’s chief executive John Delaney, who says that the organisation will pay the total cost of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane’s new contracts out of its own resources.
In an interview with Newstalk on Friday, Delaney put the value of O’Brien’s support at “almost €10 million” over the course of the 10 years and described it as “an extraordinary contribution” but the loss of it now will be a blow at a time when it has just agreed substantial pay rises for O’Neill and the members of his management team.
O’Neill’s salary is believed to have jumped from slightly more than €1 million to just over €2 million and if Keane and members of the coaching staff achieved increases in line with that then O’Brien would have been paying around €1.5 under the terms of the original deal which involved him putting up half the total cost of management team.
“I think that at this particular juncture we are strong enough to stand on our own two feet,” Delaney said. “I knew a while back that this was going to come, the board knew; we knew before we went into the contract negotiations with Martin and Roy that that was the case. But I think that we have been able to address our stadium debt, it was up around 70 million at one stage, it’s a lot less now and the interest payments are a lot less now.
“I knew that that was going to be Denis’s last campaign in terms of supporting the international manager. It was important that he did it at the time but at the same time we were renegotiating our financial terms and we are in far better financial health now than we were back in 2007, 2008.”
The association’s bank debt was put at €34 million at its last AGM but Delaney suggested that this it will have cut this figure when it reveals its latest financial position at the start of the summer. The organisation continues to claim that it could clear its borrowings by 2020 and while this is widely regarded with scepticism, its position has certainly improved from a point when the bulk of its debt was owed to an American hedge fund.
O’Brien’s support to the association stretches back to 2008 and though it was controversial from the outset, Delaney insists that it enabled the FAI to recruit Giovanni Trapattoni at the time that it was struggling under the weight of the original debt incurred as its part of the Lansdowne Road redevelopment.
“It was a great positive; we knew that we were able to go to talk to people like Giovanni Trapattoni and it was one thing for somebody wanting to come and manage you but it was another to be able to afford it. Whether people want to accept it or not, international managers’ wages have become something akin to Premiership managers’ wages and it was a statement at the time.
“When we went to talk to Martin O’Neill about coming to take the Ireland job, the fact that Giovanni Trapattoni had gone before was also a positive factor.”
The billionaire’s backing is believed to have been worth around €1.5 million at first but would have fallen, initially as a result of the salary cuts that Trapattoni and his assistants were obliged to accept and then because O’Neill started on substantially less than the Italian had.
Asked about this week’s controversy over the issue of players from Northern Ireland opting to play for the Republic, meanwhile, Delaney said that: “whoever the player wants to play with, that should be fully respected. You see examples of this all across Europe; you see a Kosovan who plays for Switzerland, or a player who was born in Poland playing for Germany.
“You are always going to lose players; we lost Jack Grealish to England [but] the player’s choice has to be respected, that’s the way I look at it. If Jack Grealish wants to play for England then that’s his decision and if Shane Duffy wants to play for Ireland that’s his and both of those decisions should be fully respected by everybody.”