December 31 – The debt-ridden Football Association of Ireland’s (FAI) existence is reported to be under threat because of long-term financial mismanagement.
Delegates attending a recent AGM were told the beleaguered association is facing potential liquidation unless it secures a financial deal, potentially throwing into doubt Dublin’s part-hosting of next summer’s European championship and Irish clubs’ participation in Europe.
FAI Executive lead Paul Cooke insisted the new FAI directors would not trade “recklessly” with the prospect of the FAI’s 210 staff being left without wages.
“As of today, we are engaged in discussions with everybody, but if we saw there was no future then as directors we have a decision to make,” said Cooke.
Issuing a public apology “for the mistakes of the past” Cooke said hopes now rest discussions between the government, the Bank of Ireland and UEFA.
“If we don’t see ourselves as a going concern, we cannot continue.”
Reportedly included in the FAI’s liabilities is €29 million due to Bank of Ireland for the Aviva Stadium and €6 million owed to sportswear company Sports Direct.
Many observers believe the crisis is indelibly linked to the regime of flamboyant former FAI boss John Delaney.
Irish reports said Sports Direct is currently being repaid €100,000 per month after a deal during Delaney’s stewardship went wrong.
“Liquidation is the nuclear option,” Cooke was quoted as saying. “There would be no international matches and at a minimum uncertainty over our League of Ireland clubs participating in European competitions.”
Ireland’s Sports Minister is due to meet with UEFA, which has apparently been funding the FAI since the crisis began in March, on January 14. State funding to the FAI remains suspended.
Delaney, who strode European football’s corridors of power until being forced to resign as chief executive of his federation (FAI) in March, is still a member of UEFA’s inner circle despite the FAI being in financial meltdown.
Delaney’s colourful and controversial career as an influential voice in European football administration took a potential lethal blow nine months ago when he quit as the FAI’s chief executive just days before he was due to appear in front of a parliamentary committee to be quizzed about a €100,000 personal loan he provided in 2017 that called into question serious governance issues.
Delaney moved straight into a face-saving position as FAI executive vice-president with responsibility for all FIFA and UEFA matters but left that post too just a month later in the wake of a report in the Sunday Times newspaper that claimed he spent almost €40,000 on his work credit card in the space of six months shortly before he personally bailed out his federation. The payments allegedly included duty-free purchases, meals in Delaney’s local pub and cash withdrawals of more than €6,000.
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