Delaney: We priced tickets too high but we will clear the debt

FAI Chief executive John Delaney
FAI Chief executive John Delaney

FAI CEO John Delaney has admitted that the association made a mistake on the pricing of 10-year tickets for the Aviva Stadium.

But the FAI board will today approve a plan to clear all of their stadium-related debt by 2020, with Delaney insisting that the proposal will not lead to belt-tightening.

They were put under pressure by the poor sale of premium-level tickets – priced from €1,200 to €3,200 – ahead of the stadium’s opening in 2010.

And the FAI hierarchy have refused to outline just how much their commitment to the stadium has cost them when interest payments on substantial bank borrowings are factored in.

However, Delaney conceded that a mistake was made at the outset when the association confidently predicted a successful take-up.

“I think the pricing was certainly too high on the bigger 10-year tickets,” he said yesterday.

Delaney continues to cite the recession as a factor, but indicated that the FAI will pursue a completely different strategy when the tickets come up for resale in 2020 – with cheaper and shorter packages set to be revealed at tomorrow’s AGM.

“Obviously the economy collapsed, we know that, but it’s a different market. We will go to the market with new prices. They will be significantly different to 10 years ago, to be fair.”

Delaney and finance director Eamon Breen said the full cost of the stadium to the FAI will be provided in 2020.

But the CEO is sure they can be debt-free by that point and will be supporting a review paper that is put in front of the board today which explains how they can do it.

Delaney admitted last month that bank debt soared to €70m but stressed it had been steadily eroded down to €29.5m.

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The confidence of reaching nil is due to the anticipated income levels in the intervening period with centralised TV deals and grant support from UEFA vital to the association.

Breen said that they receive €13m-€14m annually from European football’s governing body and only owe them €4m.

“It (paper) will go to the board and will demonstrate how we can be debt-free by 2020. I expect, having considered it, they will say yes,” said Delaney.

“We will do (a review of costs) in 2020. It will also look at the revenue the stadium has generated. Sometimes you have to be careful of looking at the narrow prisms of costs.”

Breen said that the updated figure for the association’s current liabilities stands at €39.4m – a figure that includes the €29.5m bank debt.

Irish Independent

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