FAI rescue package revealed

The Irish government has denied bailing out the Football Association of Ireland after announcing it is to give the organisation an interest-free €2.5m annual loan.

Ministers announced on Thursday they will double funding and give the FAI the interest-free loan of €2.5m annually for the next three years as part of a refinancing arrangement to help save the organisation.

The FAI has debts of more than €62m.

Minister for Sport Shane Ross met representatives from UEFA, the FAI and Bank of Ireland in Dublin on Thursday to address the organisation’s debt problems.

Mr Ross said: “Of course there are many reforms still to come. Crucially, the financial assistance we announce today is absolutely conditional on these reforms being implemented.

“This is not a bail-out by any standard.”

Mr Ross said a planned compulsory redundancy scheme at the FAI will not go ahead and jobs in the organisation will be maintained.

“All of these measures, taken together, will ensure that Irish football has a secure future,” he said.

“It means that the staff, players, coaches, volunteers, the schoolboy and girls clubs and the League of Ireland can feel reassured that we have their back and are supporting them to a brighter future.

“There will be no programmes of compulsory redundancies.”

Deputy chief executive of the FAI Niall Quinn said Irish football can “thrive” once again following the new funding.

“I believe the power of football will come home and resonate louder and far clearer than the shadow that has cast over it and we will see a new association with empowerment, a new structure and a new culture and I suppose a love that has been questioned over the past few months,” he said.

“People who love the game have had to put up with so much in the last year but what we start from today and we move forward.”

Mr Quinn said “football in this country can now really rise” and that grassroots, women’s football and the League of Ireland are the reason for that.

Interim chief executive of the FAI Gary Owens said he is confident the Euro 2020 games will go ahead as planned this year.

“I was always confident about it… it is a fantastic opportunity and there are already 1,400 volunteers signed up to help with it. It is going to bring over €100m into the economy,” he said.

“It is an important day for our staff and they have had to work with a lot of uncertainty for the past nine months – even longer.

“We can now move forward with confidence. In my position as CEO, we couldn’t really move forward without an agreement like this. I’m very confident we have all the funding now and we need to regain trust with the public and stakeholders.

“From tomorrow [Friday] we will be able to sit down with our staff and move forward and tell them where we are going and what we are doing.”

When asked if he could categorically rule out any redundancies at the FAI, Mr Owens said: “In relation to redundancies, I can never say there is going to be no redundancies but I am very confident that after today, there will be very few job losses.”

FAI independent chairman Roy Barrett said: “This agreement is vital for Irish football and allows us to take the first steps in the rebirth of our sport.

“We can now progress with our plans to restructure and rebuild the association and do what is best for our staff, our players and all our stakeholders with minimum disruption for Irish football.”

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