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Saturday 16 February 2019

FAI have no plans to follow GAA lead on gambling sponsorship

VISIT: FAI CEO John Delaney makes a speech during the FAI Festival of Football visit to Ballincollig AFC in Cork yesterda. Photo: Sportsfile
VISIT: FAI CEO John Delaney makes a speech during the FAI Festival of Football visit to Ballincollig AFC in Cork yesterda. Photo: Sportsfile

The FAI have no plans to distance themselves from gambling companies and take a stand on revenue from betting being put into the sport, John Delaney has confirmed.

The association have been camped in Cork for the best part of a week, leading up to tomorrow's AGM in the city.

Senior international team managers Martin O'Neill and Colin Bell, along with FAI officials and former internationals such as Richard Dunne, Stephen Hunt and Stephen Kelly have been visiting clubs across the Rebel County, outfits like Lakewood Ath FC benefiting from grants to open new facilities.

Money will be a hot topic at tomorrow's AGM as a proposal will be presented to delegates, outlining how the FAI plan to be debt free by 2020.

"The paper that will go to the board today will demonstrate how we can clear it by 2020, it will do. We'll make the decision today and will put that to the members on Saturday," CEO Delaney said said at a media briefing yesterday.

Current liabilities of the association stand at €33million, including a €4m loan from UEFA. But Delaney maintains that a plan can be put in place to have the debt cleared by 2020, though he would not release details of the plan.

Bringing in revenue is key and the FAI have had sponsorship agreements with two bookmaking companies, Ladbrokes and Trackchamp.

The issue of funds from gambling being used by sports bodies have been a hot topic for some time but it's even more relevant in recent days since President Michael D Higgins told RTé radio that he wanted sports bodies to end any association with gambling.

OPEN FOR PLAY: Lakewood FC astro pitch in Cork was offically opened by FAI chief executive John Delaney, centre, and from left, Ireland senior manager Martin O’Neill, FAI President Tony Fitzgerald, Brendan Lenihan (Lakewood FC), Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed TD, along with Joe Dillon (Chair on behalf of Lakewood FC), Peter De
Foubert (chairman of Lakewood social club) and Ireland women’s manager, Colin Bell
OPEN FOR PLAY: Lakewood FC astro pitch in Cork was offically opened by FAI chief executive John Delaney, centre, and from left, Ireland senior manager Martin O’Neill, FAI President Tony Fitzgerald, Brendan Lenihan (Lakewood FC), Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed TD, along with Joe Dillon (Chair on behalf of Lakewood FC), Peter De Foubert (chairman of Lakewood social club) and Ireland women’s manager, Colin Bell

"If I had my way, I wouldn't have advertising of any access to gambling platforms in sport at all. I think in a way we should protect our sports of keeping them free from this kind of stuff," the President said.

Deals

The English FA have ended their sponsorship deals with gambling companies and the GAA have done the same.

The players' union here, the PFAI, only this week met with Tony O'Reilly, who has written a book on his own experiences with gambling and the union said: "Our association fully understands the dangers gambling can present".

The FAI's deal with Ladbrokes ends this month but the Trackchamp deal remains in place, while two League of Ireland clubs (Bohemians and Waterford) have shirt sponsors from the betting industry.

Delaney refused to state outright that the association would not take on a sponsor from the gambling sector and would only say that they will discuss the issue.

"It's a fair debate to have but the first place to have those debates is internally, then you present your decision as to why you did, or did not, take a sponsorship," he said. "I think with all sponsorships, it's ultimately about where can you run programmes to make a difference.

"People say, for instance, 'well, should you have a sponsorship with alcohol?' But it's how you spend that money and where it goes to benefit football and benefit society.

"As an organisation, and the way I would like to think, is 'where do we put our money, where does it go'. We were in 43 clubs this week and none of those clubs were saying, 'we want to build houses or apartments on this land - we want to build facilities for kids and we want to have better dressing rooms'.

"They're the conversations we have. And within that, sponsors' revenues come to us and we determine how to spend it. There are a couple of categories in sponsorship which are sometimes controversial.

"Ultimately for the Association - and this applies to a lot of sporting bodies - when you get that revenue, where does that revenue go? That's the key to me," added Delaney.

Meanwhile, Tony Fitzgerald's time as FAI president ends tomorrow.

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