How IFA will carve up £10m Euro 2016 Finals windfall
The Irish Football Association hope to collect £10million from the Euro 2016 finals and have already made plans for the biggest financial windfall in Northern Ireland football history.
Yesterday the Belfast Telegraph revealed details of manager Michael O'Neill's new £2million four-year contract, which will include a clause for the IFA to receive compensation of up to £750,000 should he move into club management, and today this newspaper can disclose how all the Euro cash bound for Windsor Park will be spent by Northern Ireland football's governing body.
For the IFA, the figures are staggering.
The last time Northern Ireland reached a major tournament in 1986, the Association dealt with thousands of pounds. Thirty years on, it is mega-millions.
The IFA are guaranteed around £8million from Uefa prize money, television revenue and gate receipts from friendlies before the tournament and believe they can increase the total sum to £10million with merchandising, sponsorship, shirt sales and commercial deals.
It is understood that the £8million is already accounted for and will be divided three ways between bonuses for playing staff, legacy projects to aid the future of Northern Ireland football and to pay for what promises to be an expensive trip to France.
An IFA source said: "The money will be split three ways between those areas, roughly equally."
Playing staff does not just relate to the players on the pitch who ensured the team topped their qualifying group. It also includes coaches, backroom staff and medical personnel.
All are included in a bonus scheme for reaching the finals, though the amounts the various parties receive will be different.
Back in 2006 when the then IFA President Jim Boyce announced that the playing staff would receive a £1million bonus if the team qualified for Euro 2008, there was much excitement but the figure for reaching Euro 2016 will be almost three times that number.
In the past, of course, the IFA have been accused of wasting money. In 2009 they had to pay out £500,000 to former Chief Executive Howard Wells for unfair dismissal.
That case led to the President at the time Raymond Kennedy and treasurer David Martin having to leave their posts.
Martin is expected to be voted in as IFA President later this year just around the time when fans will be demanding the IFA don't throw the Euro millions away.
In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph last October, Chief Executive Patrick Nelson insisted the cash would be invested wisely.
To that end, what are termed 'legacy' projects by the IFA are being put in place and will be funded by Euro 2016 cash. IFA bigwigs are keen to make a point that they will invest in the future generations so that Northern Ireland do not have to wait another 30 years before qualifying for their next major tournament.
The third and final area for the £8million has been set aside for the huge costs of going to France.
From his playing days O'Neill will know that Northern Ireland players have not always enjoyed first class treatment on their travels, but under his management he has ensured that they are perfectly prepared for games.
That will be the case in France, ahead of the group games against Poland, Ukraine and world champions Germany, with Northern Ireland based at a top hotel in Lyon with state of the art training facilities. The Euro cash will also pay for charter flights to and from games during the tournament and also week-long stays in Dublin and Austria prior to flying to France.
Should there be any funds left over, they too will be pushed towards legacy schemes along with the majority of the extra £2million the IFA are confident will be forthcoming.
The further Northern Ireland go in the tournament, the more money can be made. In the unlikely event that Northern Ireland win Euro 2016, the IFA would see their expected £10million rise to double that!