Friday, June 05, 2015

Neither a borrower nor a lender be

There is rightly considerable attention on the bizarre revelation (via an interview scoop by RTE) by the Football Association of Ireland  (FAI) chief executive John Delaney that he accepted a €5 million "loan" from FIFA to avoid litigation over France's Henry handball assisted win against Ireland in 2009. The deal looks strange from both sides, but one lesson is clearly that the FAI had put itself in the position where it wanted cash over fair play by loading up on debt to build the new Lansdowne Road/Aviva Stadium. That debt has been a struggle almost since it was taken on, and in December 2013 --

The Irish Independent can reveal that the football association came to an agreement on the write-down of its Aviva Stadium loan at lunchtime yesterday, after almost six months of negotiations with Danske Bank. A source close to the talks said the successful renegotiation of the FAI's loans, which now stand at €43m, leaves the association "in a very good position to achieve the objective of being debt free by 2020". "This was a phenomenal bit of business when you think about it, almost a quarter of debt reduced following months of intensive negotiations," said the source.

Leave aside the fact that the Indo's "source" sounds a lot like John Delaney. Did Danske Bank shareholders -- who were ultimately on the hook for that debt write-down -- know that the operator of the troubled project had signed away the right to sue over a big loss in income due to the World Cup elimination? Or that if Ireland had somehow qualified for the 2014 World Cup, its borrower had to find another €5 million to pay FIFA back? FIFA's hush money compounded what was already an awful set of divergent incentives between the FAI and its creditors -- on a project with considerable public funding. This one might merit a look by one of Ireland's skilled lawyers!

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