UEFA, the FAI, the Bank of Ireland and the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport have all played their part in rescuing the FAI from financial ruin. Without financial support, the following would have been in jeopardy;
- Local and regional grassroots soccer training and leagues taking place around the country.
- League of Ireland and Women’s National League competitions.
- Our international teams representing Ireland, including competing in play-offs scheduled for this March, to potentially qualify for the Euros.
- Dublin’s hosting of 4 Euro 2020 Championship group games this summer, with the expected revenues of €100 million for the city.
To ensure the future of Irish football, we have committed to the following;
- Restore Sport Ireland funding for football development programmes and increase it to €5.8 million (from €2.9 million) each year from 2020 to 2023. €800,000 of that funding will support programmes that underpin the development of the men’s and women’s national leagues.
- Provide an interest –free loan of €2.5 million each year from 2020-2022 to safeguard Ireland’s interest in the Aviva Stadium, payable directly to the stadium operations company, which will be repayable from 2024 onwards.
This funding is being partially met from within my department’s own budget and is not having a knock on effect on other departments. This is particularly important, given concerns that this will have an impact on the budget for the HSE.
This funding also carries with it very stringent conditions, requiring complete overhaul of the FAI. These conditions include the following;
- Protect low to middle income jobs at the FAI for 18 months.
- Reform the FAI council and committees to ensure greater democracy and transparency.
- All board members must retire after 10 years and are not eligible for any further committees.
- The board must comprise 6 out of 12 independent directors and the Chairperson must be independent.
- The board must have 40% female membership.
- The travel and match ticket policy must be revised- no more free tickets for all Council members.
- Establish proper audit and risk management systems to protect the FAI’s finances.
- Provide quarterly financial and cash flow updates to Sport Ireland and to the Minister.
These proposals and conditions are strict and will require a lot of work by the new board, interim CEO Gary Owens and interim deputy CEO Niall Quinn. However, they are absolutely necessary reforms and will benefit the game of football in Ireland for generations to come.