IRFU has no interest in FAI’s Aviva Stadium stake

Aviva Stadium ahead of the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier between Ireland and Denmark (by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has dismissed reports that it could secure full control of Aviva Stadium amid the Football Association of Ireland’s (FAI) financial troubles, stating its investment plans are focused on the development of the sport.

The prospect of the IRFU taking over the FAI’s 42.5-per-cent stake in the Dublin venue emerged this week after the true extent of the latter body’s financial travails was revealed, including a request for an €18m ($19.7m) bailout from the Irish government.

Aviva Stadium is owned by New Stadium DAC, a company in which the IRFU holds a 57.5-per-cent interest alongside the FAI’s stake. Both organisations have two representatives each on the company’s board of directors.

The IRFU met yesterday (Thursday) with the Irish government’s Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to discuss the operations of New Stadium DAC.

The union told the Irish Times newspaper: “To address recent speculation, the IRFU confirms that it does not have an interest in acquiring the FAI’s share in the Aviva Stadium.”

“The IRFU’s investment programme is centered firmly on the development of rugby at all levels and all available funds are fully committed to that programme.”

It is reported that the FAI and IRFU currently pay a licence fee of around €200,000 per month apiece to help cover the running costs of the stadium. However, the FAI is said to have fallen behind in its payments by the equivalent of six months, or €1.2m.

Irish public broadcaster RTE added that the FAI retains a debt of €29m on the stadium, with reports ahead of yesterday’s meeting stating that the IRFU could take over this debt in return for the FAI’s stake in the facility.

The FAI this week hit out at the government, stating that Minister for Sport Shane Ross’ disclosure that the troubled body had requested the €18m bailout has not helped its reform process. Ross made the comments at a sports committee meeting of the Irish parliament, Oireachtas, stating the request was “shocking”, and adding that it was made “absolutely clear” that the FAI would not receive a government bailout.

Earlier this month, the FAI’s annual accounts showed current net liabilities of €55m, which Minister Brendan Griffin said actually amount to €62m, when funding and loans owed to Uefa are taken into account. The Irish government is due to hold a planned meeting with European football’s governing body next month, with the domestic League of Ireland believed to be under severe threat due to the FAI’s troubles.

The 52,000-seat Aviva Stadium opened in May 2010, replacing Lansdowne Road as home of the Irish rugby union and football teams. Developed at a cost of €460m, the government’s contribution of €191m means it has the right to overrule any potential change in ownership.