Businessman Denis O’Brien stopped making payments to the FAI to help fund the salaries of its senior management in 2016, the association’s finance director Eamonn Breen told Inside Business, a podcast from The Irish Times.
By that time Mr O’Brien had contributed €12 million, having contributed towards the salaries of former Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni and his assistant Marco Tardelli , and recently-departed Martin O’Neill and his assistant Roy Keane .
When asked what percentage of the salaries Mr O’Brien was paying, Mr Breen said a “good percentage” and “wouldn’t be far off the majority of it... as in slightly more than 50 per cent”.
“We are forever in debt to him for it,” Mr Breen said of Mr O’Brien’s funding. “He allowed us to go to the market on a big scale and to bring in Giovanni Trapattoni and Marco Tardelli, and to continue that on through Martin and Roy.”
Mr Breen said this helped the FAI to “bring football back to the top of the market” and “how it works with our business partners and sponsors, our commercial revenue...has a huge impact”.
Mr Breen confirmed there “were payments involved” to O’Neill and Keane after they left their roles with the senior Irish team last month. “None of which have had a significant detrimental impact on the association....and our ability to drive forward and invest in football.”
Mr Breen said the FAI’s debt currently stood at €29 million, and would be repaid in full within two years. “We will have that cleared by the end of 2020. Without us hurting the game and holding back on investment in it.”
Mr Breen said the money to pay this off would come from “Uefa, there’s future sponsorships, there’s 10-year tickets”. The debt has been reduced from a high of more than €70 million.