Ross defends revealing that FAI sought €18m from State
Association criticises Minister for Sport’s comments, saying ‘confidentiality broken’
Minister for Sport Shane Ross has defended himself against an accusation that he acted improperly at an Oireachtas committee meeting by revealing the amount of money the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) sought from the State earlier this week.
Mr Ross acknowledged that the FAI document he was presented with during a meeting on Monday was intended to be confidential. However, he said he was asked a specific question during his appearance before the Oireachtas sport committee yesterday and did not want to be evasive in his reply.
“I felt it was appropriate in the circumstances which we find ourselves to demonstrate seriousness by responding with the specific figure of €18 million in the interests of transparency. It was important to tell the truth, not evade,” he said last night.
“I’m working night and day with all stakeholders in the interests of Irish football. This evening I met Siptu, the PFAI [players’ union] and other representatives of the grassroots in pursuit of a common goal. We will be meeting Uefa in January with a shared objective.”
The FAI had earlier criticised Mr Ross for his comments, saying that “confidentiality was broken” and suggesting that the public declaration would only add to the challenge of dealing with the financial crisis it currently faces.
“The purpose of the meeting with Government on Monday,” FAI its executive lead Paul Cooke said, “was to expedite the completion of the refinancing deal, thus allowing the nominated independent directors to complete their own due diligence and take up their roles.
“Until the refinancing package is signed-off, it is unlikely that independent directors will be available for appointment. What was said in the Oireachtas today will not help the recruitment process for those independent directors.”
There is a belief in the FAI and in wider football circles that Mr Ross’s comments could endanger the financial rescue package being worked on by the association.
One source said Mr Ross was “acting irresponsibly”. His comments on a potential examinership or liquidation, and specifically the naming of the precise figure sought in financial support are seen by FAI sources as particularly problematic.
Mr Ross and Minister of State Brendan Griffin, meanwhile, issued a statement on Wednesday evening to clarify the situation with regard to the impact that the association having to be liquidated might have on the SSE Airtricity league.
Potential international ban
Earlier, both had suggested that if the FAI was wound up then the League of Ireland would collapse with huge implications for the clubs that participate in it and all of their employees, most obviously around 300 players.
There have been suggestions that an insolvency process would result in a three year suspension from international competition for all of Ireland’s representative teams and for its clubs from Uefa run competitions, a key source of revenue, as well as the loss for that time of all grassroots funding from the European federation.
The PFAI, however, requested that the international union to which it is affiliated, Fifpro, seek clarification from Uefa, which said that while the situation is hypothetical and unprecedented, as no national association has ever failed, it did not feel that the consequences necessarily needed to be so stark.
Under Uefa statutes any national association that is dissolved does automatically have its membership terminated but the suggestion on Tuesday evening was that the expectation would be that a new body would be established to oversee the administration of the game and that this could apply for membership of the federation.
“It is the understanding of the department that if the national association failed, the national league would be impacted and would cease to exist in its current format,” the statement from the Ministers said.
“However, we understand that League of Ireland clubs would be in a position to rebound quickly and fulfil fixtures if such a failure were to occur in the FAI. In that case, it would avoid a scenario where national teams would be precluded from international competition, provided a replacement national federation would be in place.
“The Ministers are seeking to clarify this matter with Uefa in advance of their upcoming meeting next month.”