Belfast Telegraph

Varadkar: FAI won’t be handed blank cheque to pay for past mistakes

The football body faces debts of up to 62 million euro.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Football Association of Ireland will not be handed a blank cheque to pay for its ‘mistakes of the past’ (PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Football Association of Ireland will not be handed a blank cheque to pay for its ‘mistakes of the past’ (PA)

By Cate McCurry, PA

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) will not be handed a blank cheque to pay for its “mistakes of the past”, the Taoiseach has said.

Leo Vardakar said that while the Government will play a role in ensuring the FAI does not collapse, the taxpayer will not be asked to bail out the football body.

He said there will be meetings with the FAI and UEFA in the new year in a bid to work out a plan that allows the Government to protect soccer in Ireland.

Minister for Sport Shane Ross is overseeing an investigation into the financial affairs of the body.

Government funding has been suspended after it emerged that former chief executive John Delaney gave a 100,000 euro loan to the association in 2017.

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Government funding to the FAI has been suspended after it emerged former chief executive John Delaney gave a 100,000 euro loan to the association (PA)

It was revealed earlier this month that the FAI faces debts of up to 62 million euro.

Mr Varadkar said he is “genuinely worried” about the revelations.

“There’s a lot of soccer clubs in my constituency,” he added.

“St Mochtas, Castleknock Celtic and Verona FC and they are hugely popular clubs in my constituency and so many people play soccer in my constituency and I want to make sure that continues.

“The grass-roots clubs, the League of Ireland clubs, the school boys and school girls, all the rest of it, I want to make sure that continues as normal and also our national male and female sides.

“So we want to make sure that we don’t see a situation whereby the association of football collapses in Ireland and if Government has a role to play in ensuring that then Government will play a role in ensuring that.

“But we don’t want to be in a situation where we are somehow asking the taxpayer to bail out the FAI and take on their debts and liabilities and maybe their pensions too. We’re not going to do that.

“We’re going to try and work out a plan that allows us to protect soccer and protect football in Ireland but in a way that avoids the taxpayer being asked to provide a blank cheque to pay for the mistakes of the past. That wouldn’t be the right way to go.”

Mr Varadkar said he is “very happy” in how Mr Ross and Minister Brendan Griffin have dealt with the controversy.

Mr Ross was criticised on Twitter after he posted a Christmas-inspired message in which he referred to the football body.

He tweeted: “Guess who cooked my goose? The FAI? The Judges? The Vintners?”

The minister came under fire over the post, with many accusing him of being insensitive and irresponsible.

Mr Varadkar said that the Government will be “deeply engaged” with FAI matters.

“It is the most popular sport in the country and when the team is doing well in particular it unites the country and people of all backgrounds from all parts of the country,” he added.

“We’re not going to allow football in Ireland to fail but we need to get it right because I don’t think the taxpayer would like us to take on the debts, liabilities and pension costs that aren’t theirs.”

PA

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