John Delaney: Denis O’Brien’s private funding key to Martin O’Neill deal

Ireland manager and assistant Roy Keane set to sign new contracts until 2018 World Cup

John Delaney has said private funding is vital to the reappointment of Martin O’Neill as Ireland manager. Photograph: Sportsfile

John Delaney has said private funding is vital to the reappointment of Martin O’Neill as Ireland manager. Photograph: Sportsfile

 

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

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

Both O’Neill and assistant manager Roy Keane are expected to sign new contracts, keeping them in their current roles through to the 2018 World Cup in Russia (should Ireland qualify).

“I don’t know where that is coming from,” said Delaney to the suggestion that O’Brien’s financial contribution would cease. “I wouldn’t really comment on individual discussions we have with Denis but 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.”

O’Neill and Delaney agreed the details of a new contract before Ireland departed for the European Championships in France last month.

“There is no issue with that,” Delaney continued. “Obviously, before the Euros, we announced with Martin that the contracts of the management team would be renewed and that they would be staying with us through the World Cup qualifiers. I spoke to Martin last week, I had to go to the Euro final and we would have met Monday morning only for the fact I was coming back as he was heading back to England.

“Contracts are there to be signed now at this stage, it is only just a matter of Martin and myself being able to sign them together.

“We had a lot of conversations post Bosnia. I want to be very clear on that: The FAI wanted Roy and Martin and the management to stay and Martin and I had discussions about that. I always felt he was going to stay with the association but just before we left we agreed all the terms. Obviously there is a principal of agreeing to stay and there is the detail that comes beneath it. We wanted him to stay and I always felt Martin would stay. Maybe, maybe, he [didn’t want to sign a new contract because he] wanted to both publically and privately challenge himself and the team to do well at the tournament but for the association we had seen the progression, there are a number of players coming through, we saw evidence of that at the Euros. There are also players Harry Arter, Euan O’Kane and Callum O’Dowda who didn’t participate. So we saw progression and he delivered in terms of qualifying for the Euros.”

Delaney refused to confirm or deny that an exit clause would be included in the contracts of O’Neill or Keane should a club seek to recruit one of them over the next two years.

“I wouldn’t go into specifics of contracts, I never do. All I know is the management are committed to seeing the World Cup qualifiers through. We saw an example in the past where Roy was asked to go to Aston Villa, which we agreed to at the time, and obviously he came back without operating with another club.

“As far as I’m concerned the management team are committed for the qualifiers. Even speaking to Martin it was about how quick Serbia are coming around now that the Euros are over. It was great but it is gone, it is finished with now, and it is about Serbia away and trying to get out of this group and get to Russia.”

When will Martin sign the contract?

“Next time I meet him, said Delaney. “I’d say the next week or so. When I meet him, whenever that is, now that could be the back end of next week, it could be the AGM [in Clonmel on July 29th-30th] when he obviously is going to be at the AGM for a couple of days. But everything is agreed.”

Delaney was speaking at Sport Ireland’s announcement of government investment in 2016, where the total funding has been reduced by €500,000 since 2015.

However, the three biggest National Governing Bodies (NGB) - The FAI, the GAA and the IRFU - will not be affected by the drop from €19.6 million to €19.1 million.

Despite soccer (€2.7 million), GAA (€2.4 million) and rugby (€2.36 million) maintaining their government funding from 2015, Sport Ireland chairman Kieran Mulvey expressed concern about the steady decline in government investment in sport 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 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 over the next years.”

This being an Olympic year, there was an increase of €300,000 in direct athlete investment from €1.5 million to €1.8 million.

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