They bled the game dry and for what? FAI to miss 2020 Aviva target

Article by Kieran Burke - @KieranBTS

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They bled the game dry and for what?

In an exclusive interview with Off the Ball over the weekend, FAI president, Donal Conway confirmed the association will not meet its target of being debt free by 2020 and in perhaps an even more shocking revelation, it was stated another decade may pass before the Aviva Stadium debts can be cleared!

Ever since the revelations of John Delaney's €100,000 bridging loan came to light, a revelation Mr.Delaney fought tooth and nail against in court to try and block Mark Tighe's story from being published, it has been clear to all observers that the governing body for football in Ireland are in deep financial difficulty. In fact, without the cash cow that is UEFA, it's fair to say the FAI would be in much deeper waters than it currently finds itself.

How could an association with an annual turnover of €50,000,000 find it self in such circumstances? In a football mad country and off the back of the national teams cash spinning run to the knock out stages of Euro 2016, it really is unthinkable that football in this country may be on the brink of total collapse.

It hasn't been just one or two bad decisions that have brought us to this point. One could easily point to the disastrous and totally failed ten-year tickets campaign, the pay-offs for national team managers and above all the extremely poor deal surrounding the Aviva Stadium and the fact it will eventually revert into IRFU control. Of course, all of the above have come about through a total lack of governance and a nod the head yes man culture that has eventually brought the entire board to its knees. But what was it all for? John Delaney always wanted the Aviva Stadium to be his legacy, his mark on Irish football and while it is a fine home for the beautiful game here in Ireland, was it worth bleeding the grassroots, the women's game and above all the League of Ireland dry in order to pay for it?

Regional development officers lost their jobs, League of Ireland prize money was cut and as we all know, our brilliant female internationals were being forced to change in airport toilets and hand back their tracksuits.....All this to fund a vanity project?

For a shiny national stadium, which our game will not even own after 2050, can not hide the fact that Irish football is in a sorry state. Despite being the highest played sport in the country, an amazing feat given the strength of GAA and amazing rise of rugby, our system is failing to produce top home grown talent. Depsite being abundantly obvious that English academies are no longer breeding grounds for the next golden generation of boys in green, only in recent years have we even begun to build youth structures at League of Ireland level. As a result, we are decades behind our European counterparts.

As for the domestic clubs themselves, prize money has been cut, sponsorship money is a hidden secret, known only by the FAI, there is no proper TV deal in place and despite always insisting the running of the national League was a costly exercise, pundits are no longer so sure that is the case. The very fact Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers faced delays in drawing down European prize money they earned on the field of play should be more than enough incentive for the clubs to demand answers and transparency on the operation of the League of Ireland. Thankfully though, the FAI's days of running the league may soon be over with two opposing groups currently putting together proposals on taking over control.

Dundalk and Rovers Euroepan runs came in spite of the association and it just goes to show if Irish football was funded properly, what could be achieved. Instead, we now face into another ten years of cutting corners and focusing on selling out the Aviva with glamour friendlies involving the likes of Celtic and Liverpool in order to throw money into what seems like a bottomless pit.

Mick McCarthy was brought in to guarantee a place at Euro 2020 and with Stephen Kenny set to replace the former Ipswich Town boss after the competition, you just wonder how long the suits will give Kenny if it's clear we aren't on course to reach Qatar?

Record participation levels, a new home for Irish football and unprecedented success from our domestic clubs in Europe. This should have been a golden era for Irish football but sadly we will eventually look back at this era of the game and say "what a waste."


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