January 31 – The future of the embattled Irish Football Association (FAI) has been saved after the Irish Government agreed to double its funding and give the federation an interest free loan of €2.5 million annually for the next three years as part of a refinancing arrangement.
The FAI has been desperately looking for a financial bailout as it struggles under €60 million of debt built up under former FAI chief executive John Delaney who resigned from the national governing body and, recently, also from the UEFA executive committee.
Irish government officials had met representatives from UEFA, the FAI, and the Bank of Ireland to thrash out a plan to ensure the FAI’s survival. UEFA and Bank of Ireland will also contribute to the rescue package.
State finance had been suspended since last April after details emerged of a €100,000 loan by then-CEO Delaney to the association.
Ireland is due to host four games at Euro 2020 and until now, according to reports, UEFA has been supporting the FAI with advance payment of TV revenue.
The FAI board welcomed the agreement to safeguard the future of Irish football.
“This agreement is vital for Irish football and allows us to take the first steps in the rebirth of our sport,” said FAI Independent Chairperson Roy Barrett.
“The supportive approach of each of the stakeholders – Government, UEFA and Bank of Ireland – ensured that everybody came to try and solve the problem.
“We can now progress with our plans to restructure and rebuild the Association and do what is best for our staff, our players and all our stakeholders with minimum disruption for Irish football.
Minister for Sport Shane Ross denied that the deal amounts to political interference – explicitly forbidden under FIFA rules. He described it as a “new dawn for Irish football”, saying everyone involved could “finally heave a sigh of relief knowing that Irish football has a secure future”.
And new FAI President Gerry McAnaney declared: “Today’s agreement will ensure the survival of football in Ireland. As an organisation, we must now remain focused on the fact that failure to reach today’s historic agreement would have placed the FAI in extreme peril.”
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