Today at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross T.D. and Minister of State Brendan Griffin T.D. welcomed representatives from UEFA, the FAI, and the Bank of Ireland to their Department for an historic meeting regarding the future of Irish football. Attendees included Denis Lasari (UEFA), Niall Quinn, Gary Owens, Roy Barrett Catherine Guy (FAI) and Tom Hayes, (Bank of Ireland).
Minister Ross said: “Today we are marking a new dawn for Irish football. This morning the Cabinet held an urgent incorporeal meeting to approve an agreement between the Government and the Football Association of Ireland. It has been a difficult journey to get to this place, where we can finally heave a sigh of relief knowing that Irish football has a secure future. Today we are delivering for all those who depend on football for their livelihood, as well as those who play, coach, volunteer, support or just love to support the game. That’s a lot of people.
From suspending funding to ordering a forensic audit by KOSI, to insisting on a clear out of the board while resisting the appointment of die-hard old guard acolytes. Each and every effort to rebuild and rejuvenate the upper levels of the FAI was met with hard core resistance from the status quo. It took a long time to eradicate the old guard from the upper echelons of the FAI – far too long – and it was a very hard won battle.
However, it is with confidence I can stand here today with a vibrant, independent team who are focussed on delivering for Irish football. The appointments of independent chair Roy Barrett, together with independent directors Liz Joyce and Catherine Guy, and latterly Interim CEO Gary Owens and deputy interim CEO Niall Quinn, was a necessary step forward in the regeneration of the association.
We can now look forward to a rigorous rebuilding of the FAI from a toxic, autocratic, unfit-for-purpose organisation to a fresh, cleansed association that can honourably represent and support Irish football, at home and also on the world stage.
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. Today we can announce that we will restore Sport Ireland funding for football development programmes of €2.9 million annually, doubling this amount to €5.8 million each year from 2020 to 2023. €800,000 of that funding will support programmes that underpin the development of the men’s and women’s national leagues. We will also provide an interest –free loan of €2.5 million each year from 2020-2022. This is to safeguard our interest in the Aviva Stadium – where Ireland is hosting four games in the upcoming Euro 2020 Championships. This finance will be payable directly to the stadium operations company, and will be repayable from 2024 onwards.
“All of these measures, taken together, will ensure that Irish football has a secure future. 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.
Today I would like to sincerely thank all those involved in putting this deal together. I’d particularly like to thank my Department, UEFA and Roy Barrett, all of whom have worked long and hard for many months on the finer details of this agreement. Finally, we have a good day for Irish football. I very much look forward to its future.”
Minister Brendan Griffin said: “Today’s announcement is a huge step forward for Irish football, moving on from the financial and governance crisis caused by the FAI’s past mistakes. This funding will ensure that the people involved in Irish football – players, coaches, officials, volunteers and supporters – can focus once again on developing their sport, which has a hugely positive influence on our communities.
“It is unfortunate that the FAI had to go to the very brink of insolvency before the much-needed change of leadership was finally implemented. But I am pleased that, by holding our nerve, the Government has helped bring about the necessary reforms in the FAI to be able to once again support Irish football. There is now a capable team at the top of the FAI, and we are happy to play our part in supporting them to deliver for Irish football at all levels.
We recognise that the job of reform is far from over. In our discussions with the new Chairman we have emphasised the need for a culture change in the association, and to implement structural reforms to safeguard the changes made so far. There can be no going back to the old FAI, and those who led that association will not play any role in the future of Irish football.
“Today is a day to look forward, and I believe we have now great momentum. With this additional funding from Government, UEFA and the Bank of Ireland, the people at the heart of Irish football from grassroots to international teams can now look to the future with confidence.”