Minister Shane Ross is expected to go straight from a Cabinet meeting this morning into a meeting with UEFA officials that is seen as a key stepping stone back towards a ‘normal’ relationship between the state and the FAI.
Officials from UEFA, including senior representatives from the department that looks after relations with all national associations and key financial personnel, arrived into Dublin yesterday and will spend today in meetings with the FAI and Government.
It has not been confirmed yet whether all three parties will formally meet though if it does happen that will be seen as another strong sign.
The FAI’s new Chair Roy Barrett, whose appointment last Wednesday has led to a significant softening of Government antagonism towards the FAI, will be involved in today’s meetings as will acting Executive Lead Paul Cooke.
Bank of Ireland senior executives are also understood to be ready to meet.
The key outcome will be some form of a financial package that will involve a degree of underwriting or long term commitment from Government and UEFA that will enable a commercial deal to restructure the loans that are currently funding the sport in this country.
There will be no ‘blank cheque’ of a bailout but that was never what was required and the amounts of underwriting can be placed in context by the promises of €92 million in funding for sporting infrastructure projects that Ministers Ross and Griffin have announced over the past few days.
There will have to be a commitment to further reform and a more robust and transparent approach to governance that is already underway but which will likely need to include greater external oversight.
The new election of a President for the FAI which will take place on January 25th will be from a limited candidates list of those who are on the FAI Council for at least two years and the election will take place only from within that group.
The presence of three new independent directors on the Board, with a fourth to be announced shortly gives a greater sense of decisions being taken that will be in the interest of the sport but not of an existing status quo of individuals.
Part of the discussions with UEFA will also centre on commitments on the Government side that the overt influence which has been evident through the crisis so far will be dialled down and that the independence of the FAI will be secured.
An agreement, which may take longer than today to finalise, will free up the FAI and the local organising committee for Dublin’s hosting of the Euro 2020 finals to become more active in their own planning and promotion of events around the city.
This is as important a period as any that have been in the spotlight over the past ten months since the crisis began to emerge. Hopefully, it will yield a positive result that will quickly be followed by an advertisement for the role of CEO and a move towards an organisation rather than crisis management.
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Image credit: UEFA