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Friday 9 December 2016

Martin and Roy on board for the road to Russia - FAI

FAI CEO John Delaney. Picture Credit: SPORTSFILE
FAI CEO John Delaney. Picture Credit: SPORTSFILE
Ireland manager Martin O’Neill. Picture Credit: SPORTSFILE

They have yet to put pen to paper on their new contracts, but Ireland's management team of Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane are already planning for September's qualifier in Serbia and they do plan to be around for the duration of the World Cup qualifying campaign, according to their bosses in the FAI.

Having banked €11million (minus costs) from Euro 2016 and with the financial assistance of Denis O'Brien on hand to contribute to the wage bill from the O'Neill/Keane team, FAI CEO John Delaney insists that the money is in place to keep the management team in place, with contracts due to be signed within a week or so, according to Delaney.

And Delaney says he sees Keane being part of the Ireland set-up as far as the World Cup campaign.

"I wouldn't go into specifics of contracts, I never do, all I know is that the management team are committed to seeing the World Cup qualifiers through," Delaney said yesterday at the annoncment of extra funding for the FAI, IRFU and GAA from Sport Ireland.

"We saw an example in the past, where Roy was asked to go to Aston Villa, which we agreed to at the time and he has obviously come back to us without operating at another club.

"As far as I am concerned the management team are in place for the World Cup qualifiers, even speaking to Martin the other day, it's about how quick Serbia is coming around, that the Euros are now over, it was great but it's gone and finished with now and it's all about Oman at home but, in particular, Serbia away and trying to get out of this group and get to Russia."

Delaney stated his belief that the 24-team finals format at Euro 2016 was a success and will stay in place for the next Euro finalks.

"I was one of the people who pushed the 24-team tournament along with my Scottish counterpart at the time David Taylor," said Delaney.

"I think it was a success, it was a success for UEFA, it was a success for some of the smaller nations, Portugal actually got to win the tournament because there were 24 teams, they finished third in their group and won the tournament.

Success

"Iceland, Northern Ireland, other the national associations got to participate, even though some of those won their groups, but there is no doubt that it was a success commercially and financially. It is in place for 2020 now as we're one of the host associations, there are 13 cities hosting it. There won't be any change from 24 teams for the tournament, certainly until 2024. I'm sure UEFA will be looking at that in between."

The year 2020 is a key date for the FAI, as not only are they jointly hosting the Euro finals but that is also the year by which Delaney had promised that the association would be debt-free.

Accounts to be presented to delegates at their AGM later this month, showing a debt of €40m, would leave that looking doubtful but Delaney insists that the debt-free target is still achievable.

"We took €10 million off the debt just before the Euros. That was a big achievement," he says.

"We took off €12.5 million with our banking partners before that. And there is has been other instances when we reduced our debt. I won't go into the detail here but 2020 is always going to be a good year for the association.

"We've already paid some of the €35 million down, we paid off a quarter of a million, it's €34.75 million as we speak. In 2020, there is (stadium) naming rights, television deals to be done, with UEFA, hat-trick funding, 10-year ticket sales, there are sponsorships up for renewal around that time.

"So, I've said this consistently, if the association decides it wants to be debt free by 2020, it will be able to do so. The board of the FAI will take that decision nearer that time whether to take that debt down to nil or whether to retain some to debt. If you look at the facts, we used to have a debt of €70-odd million, it's now €35m and it is well within our compass to be debt free by 2020 if we wish so."

Respect

Delaney claimed the fact that neither O'Neill or Keane were in Ireland to watch Dundalk in the Champions League at Orlel Park last night was "not a slight" on the League of Ireland.

"I wouldn't take that as any slight on the league. I think Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane have a huge respect for the league, they've attended many league games along their way, but obviously they've had a tough five/six weeks with the team," Delaney said.

"It was a long period to be together with the international team but Martin and Roy have attended a fair share of league games in the past and certainly will do in the future," he said, adding that the league here needs work, with slow implementation of the Conroy Report.

"It's not going at the pace that I would like. It's not, no. But still there are regular meetings between the clubs and the association," Delaney said.

"The League matters, it's very important to the association and to me and it's hugely important to the progress of our game but there's a collectiveness about it."

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