The new Chair of the FAI Roy Barrett and the two new independent Directors Catherine Guy and Liz Joyce are expected to meet with Ministers Shane Ross and Brendan Griffin in Dublin later today following their confirmation in the new roles last night.
All three have serious business pedigrees and are exactly the right profile for how Government might see its way towards relaxing the opposition to date towards the restoration of funding or facilitation of financial restructuring.
Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast this morning Minister Shane Ross said that he welcomed the appointment as a positive first step. When pressed on whether this would enable the Government to ‘write a cheque’ he only said that any support would be conditional on further governance reforms.
He added that the Government interest was societal rather than commercial and reading between the lines that does suggest a softening of the stance rejecting any ‘bailout’.
Part of the issue with finding a path through to a sustainable future, or indeed survival for the FAI and Ireland’s place for teams and clubs at UEFA level, has been the language used in relation to any potential financial support.
The FAI has a business plan, crafted by Paul Cooke in his role as Board member and Executive Lead over the past number of months and backed up by Mazars.
Discussions before Christmas with Bank of Ireland gave an indication that this was a sustainable look to the future and that a commercial restructuring could be in the offing with the backstop support of either Government, UEFA or a combination of the two.
The same Government, albeit under a different Taoiseach, was willing to underwrite a €120 million cost of the 2023 Rugby World Cup bid which had a mix of financial, sporting and societal gains for the country.
If that was the context in which an underwriting of debt at the FAI, with a much greater downside if not done, and at least an equal upside if it was, then it would be much more politically acceptable.
Without a restructuring of debt, there is a serious threat of the business behind the sport becoming insolvent. In those circumstances, the responsibility of the Directors is to seek protection in order to avoid the charge and repercussions for them in a personal capacity, of trading recklessly.
Each of Barrett, Guy and Joyce have had enough time to consider fully what they are getting into and their very presence means that a solution with the backing of a wide base of stakeholders is now the most likely outcome.
Today’s meeting with Government will go a long way, if not the full way towards making that happen.
The next point will be to begin the process of recruitment of a new Chief Executive Officer.