Friday 24 January 2020

Three stuns cash-strapped FAI by not renewing €10m sponsorship

Phone company Three’s chief commercial officer Elaine Carey. Photo: Naoise Culhane Photography Ltd
Phone company Three’s chief commercial officer Elaine Carey. Photo: Naoise Culhane Photography Ltd

Movile phone giant Three was on the verge of extending its sponsorship of the FAI with a €10m deal before abruptly hanging up on the cash-strapped organisation yesterday.

The Herald has learned that recent negotiations had taken place about the FAI's main sponsor renewing the package for four years beyond the Euro 2020 finals next summer.

Part of the deal was to include an initiative for equal pay between the men's and women's international teams. That ground-breaking project was floated by the FAI's outgoing interim general manager, Noel Mooney, only last Wednesday.

However, the FAI was left stunned by Three's decision to not to renew their decade-long partnership.

The withdrawal came just days after Sport Ireland referred a final report by auditing firm KOSI to gardai.

The scale of shock at the sponsor's decision is highlighted by the fact that a new home jersey, featuring the Three logo, was released only last month.

"Three has been a supporter of Irish football for 10 years, with €30m invested in the game through our sponsorship fee and activations," said the company's chief commercial officer, Elaine Carey.

"Three has made the decision not to renew its sponsorship of Irish football when the current contract comes to an end at the end of July 2020.


"Having recently reviewed our full sponsorship portfolio, we have decided to consolidate our sponsorship investment in the area of music."

It is the latest setback for the FAI as it scrambles to curb its financial and governance crisis.

The first real snapshot of its money problems since the turmoil began in March will be revealed tomorrow.

FAI president Donal Conway and newly-appointed executive lead Paul Cooke will present the latest accounts to delegates by email and to media at a press conference at FAI headquarters in Abbotstown.

Multiple issues prevented the traditional publication of the statements at its AGM in July, but the figures for 2018 were finally signed off by the new board and auditors this week.

Also being furnished is exceptional outlay items for this year, including the €400,000 severance package paid to former CEO John Delaney in September and a significant fee to the taxman arising from an audit. Total liabilities are understood to be lurching beyond €50m.

Uefa's bankrolling of the FAI, believed to almost €1m a month, is due to end in March.

An announcement will be made on a refinancing deal with a financial institution that will see Uefa acting as guarantor.

The option of the FAI selling its stake in Lansdowne Road to raise funds has been ruled out by the new board.

Rent of €500,000 would have be forked out for each international and the FAI Cup final.

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