FAI says Denis O’Brien key to reappointment of Martin O’Neill

John Delaney says without businessman’s contribution ‘ it just wouldn’t be possible’

John Delaney: said the FAI, which now owes €35 million, can be debt-free by 2020. Photograph: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Private funding, from Denis O'Brien, remains essential to the reappointment of Martin O'Neill as Republic of Ireland football manager, FAI chief executive John Delaney confirmed yesterday.

“Denis’s contribution is invaluable to the reappointment of Martin O’Neill and the management team. Without his contribution it just wouldn’t be possible. The association is more than grateful,” said Delaney.

Both O'Neill and assistant manager Roy Keane are expected to sign new contracts later this month that would keep them in their current roles through to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

“Denis has always been a great supporter of Irish football – not only, by the way, in the international team appointment but he was also very helpful in achieving our new finance reduction of €10 million. His company Island Capital were central to our discussions with our new finance partner.”


Delaney, speaking at Sport Ireland’s announcement of Government grants to National Governing Bodies for 2016, spent 14 minutes fielding questions primarily about O’Neill’s contracts and the FAI debt, which he remains adamant can be cleared by 2020.

Big achievement

“That’s what we will do. We took €10 million off the debt just before the Euros which was another big achievement for us. We had obviously taken €12.5 million write down with our banking partners before that. There has been other means too by which we have reduced the debt. I won’t go into the detail here but 2020 is always a good year for the association.

“We have already paid some of that €35 million, we have paid €250,000 off that, so we are €34.75 million with our banking partners today as we speak.

“In 2020 there are naming rights, there are centralised TV deals to be done with Uefa, there are hat-trick funding that we get from Uefa, there are 10 -year ticket sales, there are new sponsors as our sponsorship is up for renewal around that time.

“So, and I have said this consistently, if the association wants to be debt free for 2020 it will be able to do so. The board of the FAI will take a view nearer that time whether to take the debt down to nil or retain some debt and reinvest it again.”

The initial plan by Delaney and the FAI was for their 10 ticket vantage club scheme in 2010 to cover most of the €73 million borrowed to help build the Aviva Stadium along with the IRFU and Government funding.

“I know some of you are sceptical and if you go back on some of the articles you have written, through the years, you have written we couldn’t build [The Aviva Stadium], we couldn’t pay for it, we wouldn’t get planning and all that sort of stuff.”

Significant drop

It was put to Delaney that the debt has not dropped by any significant amount year on year.

“Well, no, if it was at €70 million and now it is €35 million that is a significant drop . . . ”

Much of that reduction was write downs?

“No,” Delaney replied. “It is not. The recent €10 million was paid down, it wasn’t a write down. It was paid down. That’s significant, okay? So, now you look at the facts: We used to have a debt of €70 odd million. It is now, with our banking partner of €35 million. It is well within our compass to be debt free by 2020, if we wish to do so.”

How much was Euro 2016 worth to the FAI, €11 million?

“There is a gross figure of €11 million. There are costs to go against that. When we have all the costs in and have properly assessed that, the board of the FAI in the autumn will review that.”

The extra €2.6 million which brought FAI wages and salaries up to €11.4 million in the recently-released year end accounts, described by Delaney as "exceptional costs associated with Euro 2016 qualification," was not addressed in any more detail. That may occur at the FAI agm in Clonmel on July 29th and 30th.

Meanwhile, total grant aid from the Government to Sport Ireland has been reduced by €500,000. Despite the three biggest national governing bodies – FAI (€2.7 million), GAA (€2.4 million) and IRFU (€2.36 million) – not being affected by the drop from €19.6 million to €19.1 million, Sport Ireland chairman Kieran Mulvey expressed concern about the steady decline of Government investment since 2010.

“We accept there are serious demands on the exchequer at the moment,” said Mulvey.

“But we also believe what we do and what our organisations do in the context of sport is contributing to health, education, well-being and to our international reputation. It is important to maintain that funding. Each of the organisations whose investments we have announced since 2010 each have suffered €1 million reduction in their grant over that period. We would like to build up and restore that in the next few years.”

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent