Premier Clubs Alliance have no interest in FAI’s proposed new structure

Premier Division outfits keen to be the driving force in any reorganisation

 

The organisation representing Premier Division League of Ireland clubs is to write to the FAI making it clear that its members have no interest in the structure proposed by the association for a new holding company to be established to run the league game. Under the plan, the FAI would have a 40 per cent shareholding while the clubs from each division would have 30 per cent apiece.

The Premier Clubs Alliance (PCA) membership agreed last Tuesday to reject the idea at a meeting attended by all but one of the top-flight clubs, Finn Harps. The clubs are opposed to the size of both the association’s proposed holding and the size of the 30 per cent stake it is envisaged the First Division clubs would get between them.

Club sources suggest that there is a growing desire for the Premier Division outfits to be the driving force in any reorganised structure, with clubs impatient for progress on the issue of commercial arrangements, all of which, they believe, strongly favour the FAI.

The PCA approached the FAI in 2017 when senior counsel Michael Cush was recruited to represent it in meetings. Cush provided a fairly damning assessment of the league’s participation agreement at the time, describing it as “very one sided,” and having “none of the hallmarks of a negotiated commercial contract between equal or even near equal parties”.

Progress has been painfully slow since, however. Details of commercial contracts relating to broadcast rights and sponsorships are still not disclosed by the association to the clubs, it is understood, but they believe that up to €1 million is generated annually, around four times the sum distributed among the top-flight clubs in prizemoney after participation fees are deducted.

In 2010 the prize fund for the FAI Cup final was cut by €60,000, from €150,000 the previous year, with €60,000 allocated to the winners of a game in which Shamrock Rovers played Sligo Rovers. The clubs were told that they could instead receive up to €45,000 each as part of a profit share on the game. In the end, the attendance of 36,101 was the highest for the occasion in more than 40 years, but the clubs got less than half of the extra money that had been flagged to them.

There is also irritation among the clubs, especially some of those who qualify for Europe regularly, about the way in which payments intended for them from Uefa have been repeatedly delayed. Annual ‘Solidarity’ money, intended to help with the funding of the underage national leagues is routinely retained by the association for up to six months, while Dundalk apparently had to wait much longer than that to get the balance of the money it earned for its Europa League group stage participation in 2016.

A couple of years later, Shamrock Rovers had to chase around €500,000 of its prizemoney for six months after they reached the same stage of the competition in 2011. Dundalk were waiting on more than €2 million for roughly a year.

It has been suggested that the club received portions of the money when it requested them but last week it was reported that after asking then CEO John Delaney for €300,000 in late March 2017, it received the money in several smaller instalments over the course of nearly a month.

The correspondence between the two parties continued over several weeks, it is reported, with the bulk of the money, amounts of €100,000, then €150,000, eventually forwarded on April 21st and 28th respectively.

Delaney told the Oireachtas Committee for Transport, Tourism and Sport last Wednesday that he wrote the cheque for €100,000 to the association on April 25th after having been informed at a finance department meeting that the association was in danger of exceeding its €1.5 million overdraft facility.

That in itself has prompted questions given that the association is said in its 2016 accounts to have had nearly €1 million in the bank on December 31st and staged a sell-out game against Wales on March 24th. But Delaney told the Oireachtas Committee last week that at the meeting on the April 25th: “I expressed serious concern and surprise as to how the FAI could have arrived at this position. I recall thinking at the time, if I had been approached even a few days earlier, I may have been able to better address this issue.”

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