Belfast Telegraph

Varadkar: no blank cheque to bail out the debt-ridden FAI

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

By John Fallon and Hugh O'Connell

Football Association of Ireland chiefs starkly admit they cannot guarantee staff salaries next month, as the organisation stares into the financial abyss.

Delegates attending an AGM heard of the beleaguered association facing potential liquidation, unless it secured a financial deal.

Executive lead Paul Cooke insisted the new FAI directors would not trade "recklessly" and would not continue unless it was a "going concern".

That means unless an €18m (£15.3m) black hole in their finances is sourced urgently, the FAI's 210 staff will be left without wages on January 25.

Mr Cooke confessed that their bailout hopes now rest on upcoming "round-table" multi-party discussions between the government, the Bank of Ireland and Uefa.

Last night the FAI issued a public apology "for the mistakes of the past".

Sports Minister Shane Ross last night stressed he didn't want to see the FAI enter examinership or be wound up with liquidation.

"These are not viable options for the FAI or Irish football," he said.

His comments come after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar insisted that the government would not let the FAI fall, but there would be no blank cheque provided to save the association.

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

"The grassroots clubs, the League of Ireland clubs, the schoolboys and schoolgirls, 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 its debts and liabilities and maybe its 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."

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