Sunday 19 January 2020

Ross turns down FAI's request for E10m in funding

POSITION: Shane Ross. Photo: Sportsfile
POSITION: Shane Ross. Photo: Sportsfile

Minister for Sport Shane Ross has knocked back an FAI request for E10million and told them that the Government is not in a position to provide direct funding to the football body, which has debts of €55m.

And Ross, who is due to appear before an Oireachtas committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport tomorrow, has made it clear that it's up to European football's governing body UEFA, and not the state, to provide a financial life line to the FAI.

"They were looking for support from the Government, which we were unable to give them. Financial support in other words. We said we are not in the business of bailing out the FAI under any circumstances," Ross said.

After a 90-minute meeting between a six-strong FAI delegation and Ross at Leinster House last night, Ross retained his position that "the FAI is in a dark place, the brand has been damaged and much work needs to be done".

The FAI had, at least, opened up channels with the Government and their interim CEO Paul Cooke said the association had "made progress" in their talks with Ross and his officials.

"The talks were constructive," Cooke, the FAI's Executive Lead, said.

The FAI made an appeal for Government funding to keep them afloat, with Ross stating that they asked for E10m, as the board, in place since July's AGM, try to cope with current liabilities of €55m.

But even after what was the first face-to-face meeting between Ross and FAI officials since April, there is no sign of the tap of public finances being turned back on to assist the football body.

The six-strong delegation from the FAI board was briefed by FAI president Donal Conway before the meeting, but Conway did not cross Kildare Street with his colleagues and remained at a nearby hotel.

Board members Paul Cooke, Richard Shakespeare, David Moran, John Finnegan, Joe O'Brien and Martin Herraghty entered Leinster House, their first time in the building since two appearances by the FAI before an Oireachtas committee in April. But after the meeting, Ross and Minister for State Brendan Griffin issued a strongly-worded statement where they made it clear that there was no immediate prospect of state funding being restored.

Government funding to the FAI through Sport Ireland of €2.7m a year has been frozen since April. "The KOSI report stated that an unreformed FAI was unfit to receive government funding. That process of reform is still far from complete," said Ross in his statement. "The Government cannot provide direct financial support to the FAI. We are finalising a mechanism to get our youth field programme funding to the front line.

CONSTRUCTIVE: Paul Cooke. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
CONSTRUCTIVE: Paul Cooke. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

"Our priorities are players at every level, staff in the organisation, volunteers across the country and supporters.

"We will be seeking an early meeting with UEFA in the coming days to intensify the search for a solution to the deep problems inflicted on the FAI."

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