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Mobile provider Three Ireland to end its sponsorship of the FAI

Shane Ross said the governance issues are not an ‘attractive proposition for a reputable corporate sponsor’.

Three Ireland has sponsored the FAI for ten years
Three Ireland has sponsored the FAI for ten years
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Updated Dec 4th 2019, 4:57 PM

MOBILE PROVIDER THREE Ireland has announced that it will not renew its sponsorship of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) from next year.

Three said in a statement this afternoon that it has “been a supporter of Irish football for 10 years” and invested €30 million in the FAI but will not renew its sponsorship when its current contract with the FAI ends in July next year.  

“Having recently reviewed our full sponsorship portfolio, we have decided to consolidate our sponsorship investment in the area of music,” Three’s chief commercial officer said in the statement.

At Three, we are entirely focussed on supporting the Irish Men’s team through what we hope will be an exciting and successful qualification for the UEFA European Football Championship and the Irish Women’s team in their qualification journey for the UEFA Women’s European Championship. We also wish the Irish teams at every level the very best in the future.

Three’s sponsorship of the FAI has included the company’s logo on replica jerseys sold to the public and also includes branding on display during Irish football matches. 

The FAI said in a statement that it wanted to thank Three for its “immense contribution to Irish football” over the past ten years. 

“In their ten years as proud backers of Irish football they have been Ireland’s number one supporter and we will always be grateful to them for their financial and personal support,” said FAI president Donal Conway.

We look forward to a successful eight months ahead with Three on board as we countdown to the Euro play-offs in March and the UEFA EURO 2020 games in Dublin next summer.

Last week, Minister for Sport Shane Ross said the an independent report into the FAI has been referred to An Garda Síochána.

The report was commissioned by Sport Ireland in May of this year and sought to assess the FAI’s expenditure of all Sport Ireland funding and its fitness to handle public funds.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie this evening, Ross linked Three’s decision to governance issues at the association.

“I am disappointed to hear of today’s announcement. Clearly, a sporting organisation with poor standards of leadership, corporate governance and financial management cannot be an attractive proposition for a reputable corporate sponsor investing millions of euro,” he said.

Yesterday it was announced that chartered accountant and the FAI’s vice president Paul Cooke is to take up a temporary role as Executive Lead of the Association.

Cooke will now take the lead for the next couple of weeks, until the four independent directors – one of whom will act as Chair – are appointed to the FAI board. 

Cooke and Conway will host a press conference tomorrow, following the long-delayed publishing of the FAI’s accounts for 2018.

Cooke has warned that the figures will cause shock. 

Tweet by @DTTAS Source: DTTAS/Twitter

Around the same time that Three announced its decision to end its sponsorship deal with the FAI, Ross announced that the board of Sport Ireland has approved a €195,000 grant payment to the Women’s National Football Team.

Ross said that the grant funding is not being transferred to the FAI to distribute.

Instead, business advisory firm BDO is to “oversee the disbursement of the funding in line with terms and conditions”. 

In a statement, Ross said: “There is no reason why the mistakes of the FAI top brass should be borne by innocent players.” 

“A process has been put in place which will ensure that there is full accountability in relation to this funding,” the minister said.

This funding scheme, which recognises the unique status afforded to players who represent Ireland, was introduced last year. Regrettably funds had to be withheld this year due to the financial and corporate governance failures in the FAI. Despite this, we have been eager to ensure we continue to support the players who make such a huge contribution as the leading exponents of Women’s football in Ireland. 

Junior Minister with responsibility for Sport Brendan Griffin also said the funds had been made available to the women’s team despite funding to the FAI remaining suspended.

- With reporting by Christina Finn and The42.ie’s Gavin Cooney

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Rónán Duffy

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