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Unions 'a lot more optimistic' after meeting with Sports Minister over FAI future

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Unions representing staff at the Football Association of Ireland have been told that wages for the month will be paid on time, but job losses in the future have not been ruled out.

Despite this, one union said it is more positive about the crisis-hit association’s future following a meeting with Sports Minister Shane Ross today.

Mr Ross held separate meetings with unions and the Bank of Ireland, the FAI’s main creditor, to discuss potential measures to save the cash-strapped sporting body from liquidation.

The summits followed a meeting with officials from European football’s governing body UEFA on Tuesday, which Mr Ross had praised as encouraging.

SIPTU’s Denis Hynes, who represents staff at the Association said overall the meeting with Mr Ross and Roy Barrett, the recently-appointed FAI Chair, was positive.

“We were told that the meeting with UEFA went very well and that they are making good progress,” Mr Hynes said.

“All stakeholders are positive and are working together to maintain the association. From our point of view, we will sit down with the FAI over the next couple of weeks to discuss their proposals.

We are a lot more optimistic than we were a few weeks ago.

“We have been told that salaries will be paid, so things are okay in the short term.

“Our job is to minimise any pain that will come, and the road will be bumpy ahead,” he said.

Mr Hynes said that while the meeting was positive, job losses at the FAI cannot be ruled out and that the next stage will see the Association come to unions with its proposals for the future.

“We will be looking to minimise any potential job losses and impact on the football community,” he said.

It is believed the debts at the FAI are in excess of €60m, and concerns have grown around the association’s ability to continue as a going concern after months of revelations that exposed its perilous finances.

In March it emerged that in 2017, then-CEO John Delaney provided a €100,000 loan to the FAI.

The Government subsequently suspended its funding to the association, which has been the subject of a number of audits and reviews.

Mr Ross has repeatedly ruled out bailing out the FAI, and said that the association had last month asked the Government for €18m to cover its short-term liabilities.

A new board has been appointed, including three independent directors with no previous participation in footballing governance, as per the recommendations of a governance review.

The appointment of a fourth independent director is expected soon.

A probe carried out on behalf of Sport Ireland has not been published and has been referred to An Garda Siochána.