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FAI delight at TV coup

THE FAI insists that the Aviva Stadium will be "debt free" within a decade once UEFA today rubber-stamps a new deal on TV rights which promises to pump €10 million a year into Irish football coffers.

Administrators from across the 53 nations in UEFA are meeting in Paris today at their annual congress, but top of the agenda for Ireland is the prospect of a new deal relating to television rights.

Following pressure from smaller countries like Ireland, and in the face of opposition from major countries like England, UEFA are planning a massive revamp of how TV deals are done for international qualifying matches.

Instead of cutting individual deals with the national associations as has been the policy for decades, the TV revenue will now be pooled between all 53 member countries in UEFA, a boost to the finances of nations like Ireland.

“We said that by 2020 we would have no debts on the Aviva Stadium and a deal like today’s one will rubber-stamp that commitment which we gave to Irish football. It’s a good day for us,” FAI chief executive John Delaney told RTÉ Radio today.

“This deal is worth in the order of €40m for us, in terms of minimum commitments that we’d get from UEFA, and also we keep the rights for our own friendly games.

“So the deal we have signed up to, if it’s approved by UEFA today, will give us guaranteed revenues in the order of €40m.”

The FAI do well financially from selling the TV rights to home games involving countries like Germany, France and Italy, with the World Cup play-off against France in 2009 netting almost €8million in TV money and gate receipts for the FAI.

PROFIT

But with a qualifying group containing Russia, Slovakia, Armenia, Macedonia and Andorra, there was very little profit to be made from TV deals. The FAI were among a group of countries pushing for change and that should be implemented by UEFA later today.

“In the past the FAI would have sold the rights for our games independently of UEFA, so if we were playing Germany in Ireland we’d sell the rights to RTE or SKY and sell the ‘away’ rights to German TV companies,” Delaney explained.

“Three or four years ago we set up a working group in UEFA and decided to look at the concept of UEFA selling all the TV rights for all the matches in European Championship and World Cup qualifiers, a bit like how the Champions League is done.

“That working group established a principle that, from 2014 onwards, UEFA will sell all the TV rights and that will be of huge financial benefit to the FAI and other national associations.”

Delaney also promised that there would be no change to the current system where Ireland home games – albeit only in competitive matches – would be shown on free-to-air TV.

He said: “In terms of seeing the games on TV it’s as you were. Irish audiences will be watching our competitive games on free-to-air TV.”